As the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture looks to craft the 2018 farm bill, folks from all across the Ag industry are putting in their two cents about what needs to be in the bill.

The process writing a new farm bill will take center stage later this year.

And while most of the work will take place on Capitol Hill, Aug. 3 at Farmfest, lawmakers heard from people who rely on the legislation about what they need and want.

A farmer said, "This next farm bill should prioritize farmers. You know, farmers first, over corporate agribusiness mergers."

The panel included eleven members of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and subcommittees, hearing from dozens addressing staples of the law to keep and improve on.

On the grain side, it's crop insurance as a safety net.

Crop insurance agent Travis Keister said, "The crop insurance system today is working. It's working. We have not had an ad hoc disaster bill in over a decade. This program is working right now."

On dairy farms, the margin protection program.

Dairy Farmer Sadie Frericks said, "We strongly support a program that is based on both on milk revenue and feed prices. Unfortunately, the margin protection program is not working."

To nutrition programs like SNAP.

Minnesota DHS Commissioner Emily Piper said, "Almost 12 percent of our state's population receives SNAP every month, and 70 percent of those people are people with disabilities, children and seniors all across our state."

It's a combination lawmakers say is needed to make the bill work, covering both rural and urban America.

First Congressional District Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) said, "It has the nutrition titles in there, both SNAP, other programs, and then it also has the farm programs in it, and that's what keeps the balance in there. Those that are saying we should rip them apart that will guarantee we'll never get a farm bill."

The committee's Chair Michael Conaway, a Republican from Texas and ranking member, Minnesota Democrat Representative Collin Peterson heard support for topics including trade, need for the guest worker program and organic farms.

Century Farm Organics Jerry Matzner said, "Your support of the organic industry is critical to keeping small family farms and helping grow the rural economy."

Other voices added the need for investment in research to help fight diseases.

Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Paul Kvistad said, "To support animal disease prevention in the farm bill. After the devastating outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in our state, we must do all we can to avoid to see it in the future."  

...And the development of rural broadband.

Minnesota Association of Townships Gary Petersen said, "It's so vital to our economic development in our rural areas. It's the only thing left that's going to keep our people in rural Minnesota."

Some of the youngest advocates for the farm also expressed the need for aid to the next generation.

Minnesota FFA President Katie Benson said, "There are about 23,000 career openings in the agricultural industry that go unfilled each year."

Farmer Matthew Fitzgerald said, "Young farmers need access to training, budget management skills, financial planning, and mentorship. The beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program is the only program in the farm bill specifically designed to do that."

Chairman Conaway says he is hoping to have a bill to the House floor by the end of this year or early next.

Rep. Conaway said, "I'm driven to get it done on time. It hadn't been done on time in 16 years."

The current farm bill expires in September of 2018.


--KEYC News 12