Braley Op-Ed: Listening Closely to Improve the Farm Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 18 May 2012 14:17

By: Rep. Bruce Braley

The Farm Bill is arguably the single most important piece of federal legislation that affects Iowa jobs and the Iowa economy.  From renewable energy to conservation programs, from crop insurance to agricultural research and rural development, the Farm Bill has an enormous impact on our state.  There just isn’t much that the Farm Bill doesn’t touch here in Iowa.

Every five years, Congress has the opportunity to improve the Farm Bill so that it more effectively enables American farmers to provide for themselves and produce high quality, affordable food for Americans and people all over the world.  The current Farm Bill expires on September 30th of this year, meaning Congress is due to debate and pass a new bill this summer.

I’ve embarked on a series of Farm Bill listening sessions with the USDA’s Iowa Rural Development Director, Bill Menner, in communities across eastern Iowa to listen to Iowans and get their feedback on what needs to be included in this important bill.  Maybe I’ve already seen you in Independence, Vinton, Marengo, Grinnell, Toledo, or Marshalltown.  Or maybe I’ll see you soon in your area.

I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the sessions already.

I’ve heard a lot about the recent successes of Iowa’s agriculture economy.  Even in the face of the economic downturn that began in 2009, U.S. farm exports have enjoyed double digit gains every year. American agricultural exports to China alone have increased by 50% since the last Farm Bill in 2008.   In 2011 agricultural trade resulted in a net positive balance of nearly $43 billion, and total exports are expected to exceed $136 billion in 2012.  So the next Farm Bill must ensure our farmers are able to continue working in the face of market fluctuations, to both safeguard our domestic food supply but also to sustain this growing international competitiveness.

Another frequent concern is the crop insurance program.  In 2011, devastating flooding on the Missouri River caused an estimated $207 million in losses for Iowa farmers in just six counties along the river. Cases like this highlight the importance of crop insurance in protecting farmers during unexpected catastrophes.  Maintaining and strengthening the crop insurance program is important to many, many Iowans.

Congress has a lot of work to do to create a bill that will benefit both producers and consumers by the September 30th deadline, but doing nothing is just not acceptable.  There’s a lot of division and disagreement in Washington, but the Farm Bill isn’t a political game.  Both parties in Congress should rally around farmers and agree on a Farm Bill framework that expands opportunities in the growing agriculture industry.

In the meantime, I hope to see you at my Farm Bill listening sessions in the near future.

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