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A Blessed Farm Bill
It’s looking more and more like the new farm bill will be a blessed one.
It’s been well reported that Sonny Perdue, the candidate for the position of USDA Ag Secretary has prayed for rain for his farmer constituents. His friends describe him as “a good Christian fella.”
Now, Mike Conaway, House Ag Chairman, addressing farmers at the Commodity Classic convention, received multiple ovations openly discussing his reliance on God to help folks in agriculture endure the tough economic times.
“I live a Judeo-Christian model. Jesus Christ is my personal savior. I try to live up to it everyday, and we all need to – for our country and the world,” Conaway says.
“To keep this Republic, we need to focus more on the core values that build this country. We need to take inventory of our blessings. Can God bless the 54 million babies aborted in this country? Can God bless the language used in our society that comes out of Hollywood that we call entertainment?” Conaway asks.
He and his wife attended the latest women’s march in Washington, D.C.
“It was a great event that was tainted by the signs that women were wearing describing body parts. This was a crude, krass way imaginable. Think about the deterioration of the family unit and the impact this behavior has on our young children,” Conaway says.
As he claims his confidence in completing a new farm bill in 2018, on time for the first time in 16 years, with meaningful reforms made to current programs and attention given to Midwestern and Southern farmers alike, Conaway paused to bless a sneezing reporter.
On regulatory relief, Conaway pointed out that God started us all out with 10 regulations, why add more?
The Texas congressman then reminded the audience that the top 20% of the U.S. socioeconomic level spend more on food than the bottom 20% population of the socioeconomic level make in disposable income.
“The families who I am going to be focused on are the bottom 20%, when constructing the farm bill. We have the most affordable food supply in any developed country. I am not going to screw that up,” Conaway says.
It’s the single mom, living paycheck to paycheck, regardless of being on food stamps or not, that Conaway will be thinking about while working on a new farm bill.
“I think that we have a good ally in the White House. President Trump has said time and time again that he wants a farm bill done on time,” Conaway says.
Conaway is going to work real hard to construct a farm bill without the drama, he told a general session of the farmer’s convention, Commodity Classic in San Antonio.
“If you want the drama of short-term program extensions or expirations and permanent law – all that drama that we normally get on the farm bill – then I need you to go to a different theatre,” Conaway says.
The certainty of farmers to be able to give their bankers and creditors that next five-year look is important. "Colin Peterson, House Ranking Member, and I are committed to getting it done on time. We will need the public’s health to get the Senate moving forward," he says.
Farm Bill Specifics
With a low commodity price environment, Conaway sees it easier to explain to lawmakers of the importance of a farm bill safety net than it was in 2014.
There is support to get a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a farm bill done, Conaway says. “If it is easier to get them done together, we’ll get them done together. If they have to be done separately, we’ll do that instead," Conaway says.
Conaway added, “The only people I’ve talked to who want to separate the two are people who want to kill the farm program.”
Going forward, Conaway needs the commodity groups to get their policy wishes to him. Getting new money will be hard to get, the Texas Congressman admitted.
Listening sessions will be held for farmers as the year progresses.
Farm Bill Obstacles
One of the roadblocks to getting the farm bill pieced together will be a proposal by House Speaker Paul Ryan for welfare reform in 2018. Because the SNAP program is a large piece of welfare reform, it will be part of that process.
Other specific fixes to the current farm bill involve cotton, dairy, and the county-by-county variability factors of the ARC crop insurance program.
“We’ve put in a budget request for the same amount of funding that was used for the 2014 Farm Bill. We have to respect that the country is $20 trillion in debt. If somebody is going to ask me for new money for something, they will have to tell me how we are going to pay for it,” says Conaway.
Tax reform is a big issue to tackle. “I would ask to keep your powder dry on tax reform; we don’t know the details on the new Administration’s tax program," Conaway says.
On trade, it’s imperative that President Trump’s trade advisers get on top of this issue.
“Trump's top trade advisers told me that even though the imbalances of import trade have been the focus, they realize that exports have an impact on the trade deficit. I nodded in agreement and said, ‘There you go,’ ” Conway says.