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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act Of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today to speak on S. 3240, legislation to reauthorize the farm bill. It is important to reflect on the process and the debate we just had, as well as consider the final product. First, I wish to commend Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for their diligent efforts in bringing this bill to the Senate floor for consideration and debate. It is no small achievement and there have been countless hours expended by Members and staff on this very important effort. However, in spite of this, as I weigh the bill and its impact on the State of Georgia and the Southeast, I am truly disappointed that I am not able to support it.

This bill does include significant reform with the elimination of direct payments and it makes several improvements to crop insurance. I have always been an advocate of risk management delivered through the private sector. However, the bill establishs a one-size-fits-all program rather than recognizing the limitations of crop insurance for certain regions of the country, namely, the Southeast, and whether the new commodity title program, the Agriculture Risk Coverage, ARC, program can work as a safety net for crops other than corn and soybeans. Leaving producers without an effective safety net provides very little protection and certainty for those outside of the Midwest.

A good idea often stumbles by asking it to do too much. Crop insurance is a tool that addresses risk in an individual crop year. It does not work as a safety net by insuring against multiple-year price declines. This is simply beyond its design and capabilities. Crop insurance is a critical part of a producer's risk management program, but it is not a cure-all to a commodity market that can expand and contract based on the vagaries of weather, disease, and international events. That is why farm policy in the past encouraged programs such as the marketing loan and the countercyclical program to work with, not in competition, to crop insurance.

This week we have had the opportunity to debate and improve the bill. We made some important changes, but it still lacks the balance I have advocated for the past several weeks. It is still my hope to support the bill at the end of the legislative process. Perhaps after action by the House of Representatives and a conference of the two Chambers, we will see the changes necessary to gain my support.

Chairwoman Stabenow has assured me on several occasions that my concerns will be addressed and I know she will keep her commitment. I would rather have dealt with the issues during the Senate debate, but that was not possible.

We must remember that the farm bill should help farmers and ranchers manage a combination of challenges--much out of their own control. We must also remember that the farm bill is not an entitlement for any one region or any one commodity. Policymakers must remember that the bill needs to serve all producers in all parts of the country equitably and effectively. To fail in this endeavor means we as legislators have failed to produce a bill worthy of the people we represent. I am proud of the work we did on the 2008 farm bill and its ability to provide a strong safety net program for producers. I am confident that the next farm bill will adhere and honor that same commitment we made 4 years ago.

While I could not support the bill in front of us, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the weeks and months ahead.


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