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culture policy field hearings will provide members of this committee a number of possible solutions and ideas to return production agriculture to profitable times. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this field hearing in Lubbock and look forward to listening to the concerns of the southern Plains producers here today. It is no secret that we have been experiencing a critical down cycle in production agriculture. Farmers throughout the Nation greatly rely on several of the same factors, no matter their location. Good weather and decent prices are a basic necessity. However, when one or both of these factors are missing, farmers begin to suffer. Producers have long known the hardship and struggle that comes with working the land. However, multiple years of adverse conditions and depressed prices have created market conditions for producers unseen since the 1980's. In my home State of Nebraska, these conditions have caused an enormous strain on all of our farmers and ranchers. This strain is not only being felt by producers, but throughout our rural communities. It is obvious that farmers are facing depressed prices due to a lower demand for farm products. Last year under similar circumstances, Congress passed an assistance package for producers. This aid package provided a much-needed boost to the farm economy. However, I believe additional measures are needed. For instance, producers need crop insurance reform. The House-passed crop insurance bill will provide a new approach to risk protection by providing for additional coverage to producers. In addition, it provides a pilot program for livestock. Increased premium assistance and improved coverage will allow producers to protect themselves from an endangered farm economy. É. overhauling crop insurance and looking at risk management in new ways, I believe that we will be able to lessen economic situations such as the one we find ourselves in currently. After much debate, the Senate passed their version of a crop insurance reform bill this past week. The current farm program was designed to assist farmers in having less reliance on Federal Government support. It was established at a time when commodity prices and farm incomes were relatively high by historic standards. Transition payments were intended to provide farmers with a path to become independent of Government support. They were fixed in the 1996 so gradually declining each i. until 2002. They were designed to provide a steady, predictable support level. n view of the low prices and farm incomes the past few years, we in Congress increased the transition payments. Where do we go from here? To help us in Congress answer that question, we must first ask and answer some questions regarding what is desired by our nation's producers. Again, I would like to thank the chairman for his strong leadership in this time of weak prices by bringing the full committee out into our nation's farm country to listen to rural X."o. best solutions for our farmers and ranchers will not be found in Washington, DC! Our producers are the most important commodities in America. I look forward to working with my colleagues in providing the best all-around program that producers can depend on within the general principles of a ion policy.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Congressman.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LEONARD L. BOSWELL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Mr. BOSWELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I too am very pleased to be here, and I appreciate you holding this meeting here in your home community. Yes, I'm from southern Iowa, but I have a real personal feeling for Texas. I spent a lot of time in Texas in my military days and considered it a second home, in a sense.
But we have a special challenge, it seems to me. And I would guess, the looks of this crowd, Mr. Chairman, folks here see the same thing. We've got a robust economy going on, and the country's doing good, and we're all thankful for that. Of course we are. But the agricultural side is not in step with it, and there is a number of reasons, and we need to do something a little bit different.
And, so, I'm hoping out of this series of meetings we're having that we can identify what that might be coming from you folks. I think the committee has done quite well in supporting American
agriculture in the last couple of years with those emergency payments. They were humongous. And it's my opinion we're probably going to have to do it again. Meanwhile, we ought to be trying to figure out how we can do something, whether it's the plan that Congressman Stenholm was proposing or what else we might come up with, but we need to make some adjustments, and so that's what I'm about.
I know that farming is changing. In my area, where there used to be two, three, four farms, there is one. And in some instances, that's probably OK. But there comes a point where I think there might be a diminished return.
And for me, and I'll never pass up an opportunity to say something about this, it's the stewardship over the land. And I think there is a difference when the person is out there trying to pay for that piece of ground and care for it and make it be there for the next generation and the generation after that.
And I think we're failing in that case, at least up in our territory, because they don't have time. They're just too big in some cases. And they come in there in the spring and they plant their crop, and they're gone, and away they go. They don't see the ground until they come back, in some cases the fall, and a lot of things can happen during that time that's pretty detrimental.
So, we've got a big challenge. There is overproduction around the world. We found that out when a number of us the chairman took several of us out to Seattle and it was quite an eye-opener, quite an education, and we've got some real challenges to recognize all this.
And I'm very appreciative that we've come here today to Lubbock, TX, to start this series that will go on the rest of this year. And with your help, and we're counting on your help, maybe we'll just actually do something very constructive. And that's the goal that I'm here for, and I want to thank you, again, Representative Combest and Stenholm, for holding this hearing. Proud to be here with you, and I'm ready to move on.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Leonard.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN A. BOEHNER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Chairman, I'm glad to be here in Lubbock, and thank you and Charlie for the opportunity to be here. It's a long way from Ohio. This is my first trip to Lubbock and to west Texas. It's also very flat here. I've got some flat ground in my district, in the northern part of it, but I don't think it's as flat and as wide as this is.
And, so, I'm looking forward to hearing what all of you have to say. As you've heard before, those of us who sit on the House Agriculture Committee aren't the experts. You are. And for us to do our jobs and to do it well, we need your input, your help, your advice, and that's why we're here today, and I look forward to the testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. Congressman Lucas.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK D. LUCAS, A REP-
Mr. LUCAS of Oklahoma. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank
ou, ranking member, for beginning this series of what I think will }. 10 exhaustive hearings. I would just remind my colleagues and my fellow farmers and ranchers out there in the audience that the process we begin today to determine, I think, ultimately where our agricultural policy goes next will be no simple challenge. And you know that or you wouldn't be in the industry already.
Since 1933, we have had a myriad of 7-year, 5-year, 2-year, sometimes 1-year farm bills. The fact of the matter is, had we ever have acquired, developed, rode passed, created the perfect farm bill, there would have never been another. We haven't accomplished that yet. Maybe with this process we'll take a step closer in that direction with the next one.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Congressman Simpson.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mr. SIMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm also pleased to be here in the great State of Texas. It's nice to be out of the snow of Idaho for a change and come down here and visit Texas. But I appreciate your leadership on holding these hearings around the country. And later on, we'll get to Idaho once the snow leaves. But as has been mentioned, the answers to the problems in agriculture are going to come from you, not from us. And so I'm glad to be here to listen to those people that are the producers, that are going to tell us what they think some of the solutions may be that we can address in farm policy. And I'm glad to be here, again, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. Congressman Thornberry.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MAC THORNBERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First I want to thank you and your colleagues in the Agriculture Committee for allowing me to sit in with you today. And second, I'd like to welcome all our colleagues and all our guests to the 13th district of Texas. Where we sit is actually in my district. Now, you go a couple of blocks one way or the other way, you get into Chairman Combest's district. But you're in my district here, and I’m pleased to have everybody here. I also want to say that in these times of problems, I think that the agriculture in our region and all around the country is very fortunate to have you as chairman of this committee, Mr. Stenholm also is in a leadership position on this committee. We've got some tough challenges, but we've also got two gentlemen who have been involved in agriculture their whole lives. They understand the problems, and I think agriculture is lucky to have you in those positions. I have a longer statement that I'd like to put in the record, but I just would echo the comments of my colleagues. We've got some
very serious problems, and I think nearly everybody in the room knows what some of the answers are. Some of the answers deal with things like taxes and regulation and trade policy. We don't know what all the answers are, however. And if we're going to come up with an answer that works for agriculture and we can get it passed in Congress, then we need to have a consensus, to the best we can get it, in agriculture. Because the challenge we face is that fewer and fewer folks in Congress represent agricultural districts, much less have the personal kind of torience in agriculture that a number of people on this table ave. So, we've got our challenges ahead of us. We look forward to working with all the people in this room to meeting those challenges, and thank you again for having me here. [The prepared statement of Mr. Thornberry follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. MAC THORNBERRY
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having these hearings about the state of our national farm policy. We have a serious problem, and I hope that what is said throughout the day here in this auditorium, in the coffee shops and feed stores, and on our farms and ranches moves us toward a consensus about the direction we should go.
Building a consensus within the agricultural community is extremely important. Mr. Chairman, you and I have both been around agriculture all of our lives, but fewer and fewer Members of Congress represent agricultural areas, much less have any personal experience in farming or ranching. §. been told that the problem will get worse—not better—after the census, so coming together now on agricultural policy is essential.
As you well know, producers in our part of the country have suffered from very low prices and adverse weather for some time. More and more of our producers are feeling like their future is out of their hands. Weather, trade policy, regulations, and taxes all conspire to make it virtually impossible to break even. We are seeing farmers whose families were some of the first settlers in our region decide they cannot make a living this way any more.
We have a serious so. but the question is, “What do we do about it?” That's why we are here—to listen to the people who are affected the most.
e know some of the answers. We know that we must have common sense regu
latory reform that takes into account the effects of regulations on producers' ability to earn a living and on their costs of production. We have the right to know the . and the benefits of a regulation and how much of our taxes it will take to implement it.
We know that taxes are too high, and I am very hopeful that this year Congress will vote to abolish the death tax, which costs too many families their farms and other small businesses.
We know that trade is essential, and the United States must do a better job in ensuring that our producers have a level international playing field on which to sell
Our products. W. know that Congress cannot make it rain, but we can construct a safety net to help producers survive the difficulties mother nature sends our way. And we can have a safety net to help producers survive low prices. But there is still a lot we don't know for sure. All wisdom does not originate in Washington, DC; there is a lot of wisdom on Texas farms and ranches. We need to hear and benefit from that wisdom today. Our challenge, Mr. Chairman, is to come up with a #. that really helps #. culture and can get passed into law. It's no easy task. Thank you again for holding this hearing and for inviting me to participate. The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Congressman Thornberrry. And all members' statements will be made a part of the record for any additional comments they wish to make. I would now at this time like to invite our first panel. One of the things we're finding out is that—and the whole idea of these hearings is to go out into the countryside and talk with people that don't appear at hearings in Washington; and, that is, we think, is something we've been successful in the first, and we'll see if we can in the additional nine. In order to emphasize that, I would mention to you that the lights that are on the table are 5-minute lights. If you can, summarize your testimony within that period of time. The first panel today is Mr. Lloyd Arthur, who is a cotton and milo producer from Ralls, TX; Mr. William Kubecka, who is a rice producer from Palacios, TX; Mr. Donald Patman, who is a cotton, corn and soybean producer from Waxahachie, TX; Mr. Ronnie Riddle, who is a cotton producer from Abilene, TX; and, Mr. Mark Williams, who is a cotton producer from Farwell, TX. And they are lined in the order of the introduction. Mr. Arthur, welcome, and we would begin with you.
STATEMENT OF LLOYD ARTHUR, COTTON AND MILO
Mr. ARTHUR. First and foremost, I would like to give thanks to Chairman Combest and the rest of the members of the Committee on Agriculture for investing time to hear the concerns of the American farmer. Also, I would like to personally thank the chairman, the ranking minority member, Mr. Stenholm, and the rest of the distinguished members of the committee present today for their involvement the last 2 years in changes and additions to the current farm bill. With those changes, many farmers, including myself, have been able to continue farming during very difficult times. However, with commodity prices being below production cost, future assistance is still needed for the American farmer to survive. The Government assistance does not stop here. The assistance helps our local community, especially in rural areas of the Nation. Some agricultural policy changes in the short term, as well as new farm legislation, can, in my opinion, help alleviate some economic hardships. Knowing that uneven production costs exist, the price in other countries I cannot control. I must limit my risks and my expenses. Crop insurance is an important risk management tool. However, insurance itself is not a comprehensive economic safety net. The adequacy and affordability of crop insurance varies greatly for crop and region. The current crop insurance program forces producers to carry the same level of insurance coverage on farms in all the county. A producer should be allowed to purchase different levels of coverage for different farming practices, example, irrigation and non-irrigated. If a catastrophic loss occurs between mid-season and harvest, the amount of coverage lower level policies provide is only 50 to 60 percent of production cost. Insurance policies should allow the higher levels o coverage the same amount of premium discounts as lower levels. This would help producers to cover more of the operating costs in the event of a loss. In the event of a catastrophic loss, allow a producer to drop that actual loss yield or allow the producer to insert a county average, a T-yield, or some other calculated standard formula to help offset the cost of the following year.