Conaway Speaks on Disaster Relief in New Farm Bill


The House Agriculture Committee recently held its sixth and final Farm Bill listening session in upstate New York. Committee Chair Mike Conaway said the listening session in New York, along with the other five sessions, were invaluable to the committee as it looks toward developing a new Farm Bill.

Disaster recovery programs are a big part of the Farm Bill. Conaway is looking into the possibility of getting some immediate help for farmers and ranchers in Texas and Florida. At the same time, they’re trying to put together the most effective disaster-recovery programs they can design into the new Farm Bill…

“What are you going to do right now?  what are we going to do right now?  waiting on the farm bill, which generally takes effects in regard to payments takes effect in 2019, that’s just way too far to address what’s going on right now. 

“So, the question is how do we get that supplemental that just dropped last night, I haven’t had a chance to go  over it, but  it will have help on the disaster side that FEMA would go, so any of our producers whose homes were destroyed those kind of things, would have access to that.  I know there will be additional supplimentals, and that’s kind of the talk from the Texans and the Floridians, and those kinds of things, is where can we get some additional relief there.”

Disaster relief will be a very important part of discussions in developing the new Farm Bill…

“One of the talking points for having a farm bill is avoiding having ad hoc disaster relief payments, so we’re going to be very cautious on getting out of the bounds of the farm bill, as we look at this response.  But, just now getting to the cumulative impact of what happened and what those losses are, and once we see that I think we’ll have a better sense of what we need to do and how soon we need to do it. 

“But, you’re really talking about two different things; help now, through the supplemental relief programs, as well as how our commodity programs and crop insurance and others react to this disaster that will inform us if there are holes and leaks in this that we need to fix going forward.”

The devastation to the Texas cotton crop is a good example of the kinds of events that the Farm Bill needs to anticipate and be able to effectively provide help for…

“One of the things we’re looking at is that we had cotton destroyed in Texas t hat was at its final stages, it had already been harvested, they’d spent all the money that they were going to spend, and they lost the crop.  They lost a record crop, which you cannot insure.  And so, is there a way of looking at risks across the spectrum of the growing season and ways to look at that.  But, those are the kind of conversations that we’ll be having, but that’s a fixed, it wouldn’t take effect until at the earliest, a year from now.”

House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.