House Ag Committee holds first hearing of the year to focus on “headwinds facing agriculture”

The House Ag Committee held its first hearing of the new session. Lawmakers and industry leaders discussed challenges facing American agriculture ahead of this year’s Farm Bill.

Representative Glenn GT Thompson started the hearing off.

“Our focus this morning will be on the headwinds facing production agriculture. Without a comprehensive understanding of the industry’s challenges. We cannot write an impactful Farm Bill that addresses the needs of those who grow, process and consume the food, fuel and fiber. We are blessed to produce here in the United States. It is our mandate to fully understand these challenges and worked diligently without partisanship to ensure the passage of a strong farm bill that addresses the issues highlighted today.”

American Farm Bureau President, Zippy Duvall said farmers need to have defined rules that impact their operations.

“The country that cannot feed its people is not secure. So the strong foreign policy that supports a strong food system truly is part of a smart national security strategy. Affordable, reliable, abundant energy is critical to the farmers and ranchers. Energy is necessary for all farm production, and we continue to ride a roller coaster ride of high energy and new input costs. Much uncertainty remains related to the ability of farmers and ranchers to access affordable supplies and deal with regulatory and weather related challenges. It becomes more and more important for farmers to have clarity on rules that impact their business and ability to operate. Growers need to have access to comprehensive risk management options. They deserve a resounding voice during formulation of vital legislation, such as the Farm Bill, and the Farm Bill is a critical tool that ensures our nation’s food supply remains secure.”

Peter Friedmann, Agriculture Transportation Coalition Executive Director touched on how transportation directly impacts agriculture.

“Federal and state policies can facilitate the flow of commerce, agriculture exports, or they can hinder it. Truck weights need to be increased. We have the lowest truck weight limits in the world in some of our states, and in California, it creates a barrier to agriculture exports, the lowest truck weight limits in the world, increasing congestion increasing delay and increasing emissions. We do need a resolution of the port long shore labor dispute and the contract negotiations on the West Coast that’s been going too long. And we’re hopeful and maybe our oversight from this committee will help because it’s causing a shift in transportation services from the west coast to the east and Gulf Coast.”

Lastly, The Fertilizer Institute President and CEO, Corey Rosenbusch, discussed the importance of fertilizer supplies.

“Fertilizer plants are capital intensive facilities, sometimes costing as much as $4 billion to build. Fertilizer demand is also driven by crop prices which we have seen reached record highs. Global grain stocks to use ratio ratios are the tightest they’ve been in eight years and it will likely take years to re-balance those. Logistics has been a huge issue for our industry - over 60% of all fertilizer moves by rail, and we’ve seen poor rail service that was compounded by low water levels in the Mississippi River reducing barge traffic and of course, trucking capacity issues as well. So if one wanted to bolster fertilizer supply for the American farmer, the most significant impact that you can have to mitigate our biggest risk is to provide regulatory certainty.”

There are just seven months left before the current Farm Bill expires at the end of September. Thompson says he plans to hold listening sessions in the coming weeks to continue gathering input from producers across the United States.