Farmers Descend on Capitol Hill, Push for Safety Nets in Next Farm Bill


Wheat farmers across the country flew into the nation’s capital to push for strong farm safety nets and trade programs, as lawmakers craft the 2018 farm bill.

The Sept. 26-27 fly-in event, hosted by the National Association of Wheat Growers, has given farmers a chance to express their concerns to lawmakers, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).

Wheat

NAWG Treasurer Ben Scholz, who owns a farm in Texas, met with Conaway alongside other Texan growers to discuss trade issues—such as supporting the Market Access Program—and farm safety nets, such as crop insurance following natural disasters.

Hurricane Harvey is a “good example that we need good farm legislation,” he told Bloomberg BNA.

Scholz, who grows wheat and corn, said he faced a hail storm this year that hit one-third of his wheat crop, but crop insurance protection “led him forward” to get a little closer to the profit margin for the year. While Harvey did not affect his crops, Scholz said he does know many cotton farmers who were hit hard, and plans on being a voice for those growers while in Washington.

“I want to make sure Congress knows that agriculture is important to all of us, not just us producers,” he said.

The current farm bill will expire at the end of fiscal year 2018. Current spending under the 2014 farm bill is estimated at $489 billion over five years, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Eighty percent is spent on nutrition programs and 19 percent is marked for crop insurance, conservation, and commodities.

Scholz will attend several other meetings into Wednesday before returning to his farms to finish out the wheat-planting season. Asked about his deliberations with Conaway, he said: “The meeting went very well.”