Needing an agriculture safety net
LAPEL — Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have started gathering input from around the nation as they work on the 2018 reauthorization of the farm bill.
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., was among them as she met with approximately 50 area farmers on the farm of Andy Bracken on Wednesday.
Brooks, who represents the 5th District that includes Madison County, said Rep. Mike Conway, R-Texas, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, is working to protect crop insurance in the 2018 bill.
“That is critically important,” Brooks said. “We want it to be adequately funded. It is important to have that safety net for farmers.”
Currently farmers pay 38 percent of the crop insurance premiums and the federal government paying the remainder. There is a belief that the amount of the federal share will be reduced in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Another crucial area of concern Brooks said is to work on a bipartisan issue of trade policies and the possible impact on the agriculture community.
“There were concerns when President (Donald) Trump said he was going to renegotiate NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),” she said. “Chairman Conway said he felt good about the administration’s proposal.
“We have a trade deficit with both Mexico and Canada,” Brooks continued. “We need to lower that trade deficit because export markets are critically important to Indiana farmers and agribusiness.”
Brooks said the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been included in the farm bill for a long time and is likely to continue in the future.
Brooks said Congress has to determine what provisions of the program, more commonly known as food stamps, are working and which are not.
“SNAP and food stamps program are tied to the farm bill,” she said. “SNAP will continue to be a part of the farm bill.”
Brooks said the program provides food assistance to people that need it, but fraud and abuse in the program have to be eliminated.
“It takes care of the neediest people in the country,” she said.
Conway has indicated he wants to reform the SNAP program in 2018.
In his budget proposal, Trump is calling for a 21 percent reduction in the Department of Agriculture budget.
“The president’s budget proposal normally contains significant cuts,” Brooks said. “The House and Senate pass the budget.
“The final budget rarely looks like the president’s proposal,” she said. “I don’t anticipate any significant cuts in the Agriculture Department budget.”
Brooks told the gathered farmers that she shares their concerns on the farm bill.
“Advances in agriculture technology are important to Indiana farmers and those throughout our country,” she said. “You not only feed Hoosiers but you feed people around the world.”