The 2017 Commodity Classic - the annual national meeting of the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Sorghum Producers, held this year in San Antonio, Texas - is now in the books, and commodity groups finished their meetings with a sense of urgency and a burning thought in mind: unless change happens, farm incomes are likely to be down. In tough times, a strong safety net is important.
Congressman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ag Committee, said during the opening session that he's been on a two-year honeymoon with production agriculture.
"Everybody loves me and they all give me hugs and kisses and standing ovations because I haven't done the Farm Bill," Conaway said.
Work on the 2018 Farm Bill is already underway, and Conaway is confident it will get done on time.
"I can't find one person who says, 'Nope. I like the drama of an expiration. I like the drama of short-term extension. I like the drama of permanent law coming back,'" he said. "It's the right thing to do."
Farm groups at Commodity Classic say they don't see too many hurdles in the way.
"We think that things are working pretty well for soybean farmers," said Patrick Delaney, Director of Policy Communication for the American Soybean Association. "We recognize there are some things that need to change in the cotton program and in the dairy program."
Conaway does expect tweaks to both Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and specifically Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC).
"One of the missions that the ARC program was not effective on was a long-term price reduction and that was told to those folks who wanted that program in 2014," Conaway said.
"There's been some problems with ARC," said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers. "I don't think that's news to anybody. None of this is confirmed, but we are looking at smaller areas out west. Maybe we should be looking at crop insurance districts."
When it comes to splitting the farming and nutrition titles, Conaway make no promises other than to say he'll do what needs to be done to get both passed. He believes ultimately the Farm Bill will deserve support from all sides of the aisle.
"As we look at these proposed changes or eliminations, what (does) it do to the cost of food?"
Chairman Conway addressed many other topics including RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) reform.
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