At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, ranking member U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today said he would continue work to preserve, protect and strengthen crop insurance for producers to improve stability of the nation's safe and abundant food supply and to enhance rural communities.
The following is text of the senator's opening statement as prepared for delivery:
"I look forward to hearing from everyone as we talk about how we can help farmers manage their risk so they can continue to produce the safest, most abundant and least expensive food supply in the world.
"I hear time and time again from producers and their lenders that crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net. I hear it in Kansas, we heard it in Michigan at the field hearing, and I hear it every time I speak to a group of producers here in Washington, D.C.
"If you doubt its importance, just look at what crop insurance provided this past year.
"We had the worst drought since the Dust Bowl in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in 2011. We had massive flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and hurricanes devastated the Northeast.
"Yet just months after all of this ruin, producers are tuning up their equipment and preparing their fields to put seed in the ground once again.
"It is not because of some day-late or dollar-short ad hoc disaster package that farmers are back on their feet producing the food that feeds a troubled and hungry world.
"No. These farmers are able to put the seed in the ground again because they managed their risk and protected their operations from Mother Nature's destruction through the purchase of crop insurance.
"If that isn't a success story of the partnership between government, private industry and America's farmers, I don't know what is.
"But just because a program is successful doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvements.
"Crop insurance is a big tent with plenty of room under it. The program already protects more than 250 million acres of cropland in the United States -- more than two-thirds of the eligible acres - but there are still acres that aren't protected and producers who can't afford to purchase the kind of protection they need.
"The more producers under that crop insurance tent and protected from disaster, the more stable our food supply and rural economies will be.
"We made great progress last fall in the Joint Committee process in improving crop insurance to bring even more people under the tent.
"I look forward to continuing our work to preserve, protect and strengthen crop insurance and to hearing the thoughts of our witnesses on how to improve upon an enormously successful program.
"We're also going to hear from our witnesses about Title I farm programs.
"Let me emphasize that I'm committed to working with all of my colleagues and those involved in agriculture to find a program or a suite of programs that will improve agriculture's safety net.
"I'm confident we can find solutions that will live up to our WTO commitments, will be simple for producers to understand and utilize, and will be reasonable for FSA to implement.
"I'm also confident that we can find solutions that won't drive planting decisions and lead farmers to plant for government programs instead of the marketplace.
"There was a time in the not-so-distant past when our farm programs greatly distorted planting decisions, and I, as chair of the House Ag Committee, along with others here in the Senate, did everything we could to eliminate those distortions.
"I generally like to talk about the good ol' days, but in the case of farm policy, old isn't necessarily good.
"Madame Chairwoman, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses."