Today, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., former chairman and former ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, gave his opening remarks at the 2013 Farm Bill Conference. This is the first public meeting of the 2013 Farm Bill Conference Committee, which consists of 41 bipartisan conferees from the House and Senate. The group will begin discussion to consider the 2013 Farm Bill, a five-year bill which will be Chambliss' fourth and final farm bill. Chambliss' remarks can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqanUE8ubNE&feature=youtu.be
"I am pleased to be here today to begin discussions on a comprehensive, sound, five-year farm bill. It has been quite a journey over the past three years, and I know that all the conferees here today are ready to move forward.
"This will be my fourth and final farm bill as a member of Congress, and as a former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I recognize how difficult it is to combine all the diverse interests into a single piece of legislation that meets the needs of all crops, regions, and rural and urban communities that the farm bill impacts.
"Both bills before us embody reform, streamlining, and consolidation, and with the biggest issue facing our country being our growing debt and deficit, I commend the House and Senate Ag Committees for stepping up and doing the work necessary to find savings. While we take these essential steps, we also must do this in an equitable and fair manner.
"It is also important to note that this bill must not only work to protect producers in times of need, but it must responsibly serve as the nation's safety net for the nutritional wellbeing of low-income Americans. Our nutrition assistance programs play a key role in ensuring that needy Americans have access to the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives. However, we must take this opportunity to assess the programs to find savings, while still ensuring those in greatest need are provided a helping hand.
"Agricultural producers face a combination of challenges, such as unpredictable weather, variable input costs, and market volatility that all combine to determine profit or loss in any given year. The 2008 Farm Bill provided a strong safety net for producers, and successor legislation must adhere to and honor the same commitment we made five years ago.
"While I understand there are different ideas about what safety net is best, I urge my colleagues to recognize that one program doesn't work for all crops. Both bills before us attempt to provide producers with options to find what works best for them, and that is a step in the right direction.
"Importantly, Congress has taken a fresh look at our commodity programs while maintaining an effective safety net that is so critical to America's farmers. We should provide options to farmers while at the same time act as responsible stewards of the taxpayer. When producers don't feel that the revenue-based programs, or "shallow-loss" programs work for them, they need to be provided an option to manage their risk, and I urge my fellow conferees to remember the importance of giving producers choices.
"Also, I would like to recognize that the upland cotton policies contained in the Senate and House versions embody fundamental reform that meet our commitments in the World Trade Organization. The legislation eliminates or changes all Title I programs providing direct support to those involved in cotton production, and addresses head on and remedies the criticisms central to the WTO dispute with Brazil.
"In the end, I am confident that we can balance the needs and interests between commodities and regions to reach our common goal of getting a farm bill across the finish line. Ultimately, the reason we are here is to represent those who work the land each and every day to provide the highest quality agricultural products in the world.
"It is vitally important to the farmers and ranchers of Georgia, as well as to farmers and ranchers across this great nation that we uphold the strength of the safety net that American agriculture depends on in this farm bill. We have the opportunity to write a bill that is equal to their commitment to provide the highest quality food, feed and fiber in the world.
"I look forward to working with the conferees in the weeks ahead."
For more information on the Farm Bill Conference, visit http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/2013-farm-bill-conference-meeting.