Senate Ag Chair Says Ad-Hoc Disaster Assistance Can’t Continue

Replenishing funds for the Commodity Credit Corporation is typically an easy decision in Washington D.C. among lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. However, that’s not the case in 2020. Several lawmakers have expressed hesitation in renewing the funding for the CCC, which supports a large number of programs in the farm bill.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is Chair of the Senate Ag Committee, who spoke during a recent virtual event hosted by Agri-Pulse. Before a successful vote on Tuesday to replenish the CCC funds as part of a Continuing Resolution, he said not voting to replenish the funds for CCC because of political differences is a bad decision for U.S. agriculture.

“Not voting for any kind of CCC funding because you’re upset about how the department in the past has run its program or what they are proposing in regards to CCC down the road, which is unbelievably remarkable with regard to what the president has proposed and what the secretary is proposing, especially for long-suffering wheat farmers and a lot of other people, here again, we’re talking 45 to 50 programs are in danger. And there’s no answer to it other than just voting no because you have a difference of opinion with the secretary. That’s not being responsible.”

The two sides reached an agreement Tuesday night to include the funds and the House passed the CR 359-57. A statement from Roberts says, “Democrats have heard our call, and the calls from farm country, to not ignore rural America when funding the government.”

He says ad-hoc disaster assistance is not the way to help U.S. agriculture going forward, simply because it’s not sustainable. Strengthening the safety net programs in the farm bill is the way to do it right.

“We sold the farm program on certainty and predictability. How many times have we passed a farm bill to provide farmers, ranchers, and growers in the entire agriculture industry and everybody related to it with certainty and predictability? If there’s ever a time after five or six years of this, with regard to prices below the cost of production and what Mother Nature has done to us, talking about the beleaguered farmer here now, for five or six years, we pass a farm bill and then, all of a sudden, it’s maybe this or maybe that. Consistency and predictability; we have to do a better job.”

The future of the farm bill will require the diverse segments of U.S. agriculture that don’t always see eye-to-eye to put aside difference and come together.

“In each and every one of them, we’ve heard people cast doubt on our ability to pass a farm bill, especially this last one. And yet, we achieved more votes than we ever have before. The reason for that is the people in the whole farm network of broadcasters, and then all the farm organizations, all the commodity groups, we knew we had to hang together or hang separately. Additionally, we had a thousand different organizations behind it; it will happen again because people understand the value and importance of passing a farm bill on behalf of the beleaguered farmer, rancher, and grower.”

Roberts says the safety net has improved farm income throughout the ag sector. He says one way to improve that is changing the current U.S. trade policy for the better.

“I think we’re into the period that if we do get the CCC funding, and we will, we’ll get that done or face very bad consequences. I think we’re close to between 50, 60, or even 70 billion dollars that’s coming from the government. I hope that we can have a breakthrough on that policy. China is still buying our product and we saw an increase in the soybean price. I hope that can be a much broader increase with farm income. By the way, there’s no federal program you can think of that will be a better benefit than farm income.”