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At listening session, calls for greater farm bill funding and a stronger SNAP

Congress needs to modernize the crop insurance program and update farm subsidies to reflect higher input costs and volatile commodity markets — expensive steps — when it writes the new farm bill, said the leader of the largest U.S. farm group at a listening session in Texas on Wednesday. An anti-hunger leader asked lawmakers to “keep the importance of access to SNAP and the adequacy of those benefits top of mind throughout farm bill discussions.”

The House Agriculture Committee chair, Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, said comments at the session would help lawmakers working on the new farm bill. He also said written comments could be submitted on the committee’s website. “We’re looking for your thoughts, your ideas, challenges you’re facing — and quite frankly, do me a favor [and] put some homegrown solutions in that as well.”

Thompson said he intended to enact a new farm bill before the 2018 farm policy law expires this fall.

“I’ll tell you, what I hear is crop insurance is a cornerstone of our farm bill. Please modernize it, broaden it, and make sure it’s there to help these farmers get through difficult times,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Commodity supports “are outdated” and inadequate when compared to production costs, he said. “We know that would call for broadening the baseline, and we support y’all seeking out, trying to do that.”

Duvall sat on stage between Thompson and Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, the committee vice-chair. Other speakers stood at microphones on the floor at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.

Agriculture Committee members voted unanimously last week to ask for “additional resources” for the 2023 farm bill. The AFBF was among 100 national farm, banking, insurance, and processor groups to send a letter to the Senate and House budget committees this week expressing “our strong support” for giving the agriculture committees “sufficient budgetary resources” for the farm bill.

Celia Cole, chief executive of Feeding Texas, a network of 21 food banks, called for attention to SNAP benefit levels and told lawmakers, “Work requirements are not an effective tool to improving employment outcomes.” Conservative lawmakers are expected to seek stricter work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries this year. Cole said SNAP should be expanded to include low-income college students.

Texas farmer Dee Vaughn, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, said ceilings on subsidy payments should be adjusted. “Inflation has eaten it up,” he said. Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, said payment limits should be addressed along with the rules that deny subsidies to people with high incomes. If three-fourths of their income is from agriculture, there should be no barrier to eligibility, he said.

“A permanent disaster program would be beneficial,” said Murden, because crop insurance is not available for all crops.

To watch a video of the listening session, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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