Special to the Journal
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., former chairman and former ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the 2013 Farm Bill.
To watch his speech, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mtWzVbxpZo
Mr. President, I rise to speak on S. 954, legislation to reauthorize the farm bill.
As a former chairman and ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, I recognize how difficult it is to combine all the diverse interests into a single piece of legislation that meets the needs of all crops, regions, and rural and urban communities that the farm bill impacts.
I want to thank Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran for the work they have done to craft a reform-minded bill that not only saves $24 billion with sequestration cuts included, but also provides an effective safety net for farmers and ranchers to rely on in times of need.
This bill embodies reform, streamlining and consolidation, and with the biggest issue facing our country being our growing debt and deficit, I commend the Ag Committee for stepping up and doing the work necessary to find savings. While we take these essential steps, we also must do this in an equitable and fair manner.
Agricultural producers face a combination of challenges, such as unpredictable weather, variable input costs, and market volatility that all combine to determine profit or loss in any given year.
The 2008 Farm Bill provided a strong safety net for producers, and successor legislation must adhere to and honor the same commitment we made five years ago.
It is also important to note that this bill must not only work to protect producers in times of need, but it must responsibly serve as the nation’s safety net for the nutritional wellbeing of low-income Americans.
Last year when we went through this process, I was unable to support the bill. However, I appreciate the chairwoman and ranking member for making improvements to last year’s bill.
While the bill before us is not perfect, I believe everyone at this table has something they can point to. The farm bill shouldn’t be about what you, your state, or your political affiliation might be opposed to. Instead, it should be viewed as a bill that everyone can benefit from.
While I understand there are different ideas about what safety net is best, I urge my colleagues to recognize that one program doesn’t work for all crops. The bill before us attempts to provide producers with options to find what works best for them, and that is a step in the right direction.
A new program, known as the Adverse Market Protection seeks to serve the needs of those who are not protected by the Agriculture Risk Coverage and crop insurance programs. It is imperative that the farm safety net provide protection for multi-year price declines, especially for Southern crops like rice and peanuts, since the protection provided by ARC and crop insurance is not sufficient.
Also, I would like to recognize that the upland cotton policies contained in the chairwoman’s mark represent fundamental reform in the support provided to cotton farmers – reforms that contribute $2.8 billion in savings toward this committee’s budget target. The legislation eliminates or changes all Title I programs providing direct support to those involved in cotton production, and puts us down the path to resolving the WTO dispute with Brazil.
Further, I would like to express my support that this bill includes measures that tie conservation compliance with crop insurance. My amendment last year on the floor relinked the two, and since then 32 leading agricultural, conservation and crop-insurance groups came together to forge a compromise on details of this linkage.
This compromise will provide a strong safety net for our nation’s farmers and natural resources, while allowing them to be wise stewards of taxpayer resources.
This will be my fourth and final farm bill as a member of Congress. As a member of the Ag Committee and as a strong supporter of Georgia agriculture for my nearly 20 years in Congress, I have witnessed several disputes, especially regional disputes; however, I am confident that we can balance the needs and interests between commodities and regions to reach our common goal of getting a farm bill across the finish line.
Ultimately, the reason we are here is to represent those who work the land each and every day to provide the highest quality agricultural products in the world.
We have the opportunity to write a bill that is equal to their commitment to provide the food, feed and fiber that allows America to be the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, and I look forward to the forthcoming debate. I yield the floor.