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Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman, and I rise today in strong support of this disaster relief bill. To fully appreciate the need for this legislation--and it's going to pass the House today, we hope, and be signed into law by the President this week--just turn on your television or look at the front page of any newspaper to see the details of the drought gripping our countryside today.

As a west Texan from cattle country, I know a little bit about droughts. The record-breaking drought that we faced last year in Texas, that's still being felt this year, by the way, was heart breaking for all of us, especially those who make their living raising livestock and growing crops that feed and clothe our Nation.

I'm sometimes called upon to explain how good can come out of a bad situation. Maybe this is one of those times. I hope my colleagues who doubt the need for farm policy might think a little bit about what our country's farmers and ranchers are going through right now, and then imagine what many of them are going through without crop insurance, which is the one and only reason why we are not in here today debating a multi-billion dollar disaster package. In other words, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Unfortunately, our livestock producers do not have crop insurance. They have to depend on disaster programs instead. Regrettably, the authority for this disaster relief has expired and must be renewed in order for livestock producers to receive relief, and that's what this bill does.

But the need for farm policy goes beyond addressing droughts and whatever else Mother Nature might throw at us. It also is responding to high foreign tariffs and subsidies that are climbing higher and higher, breaking records, while funding for U.S. farm policy is at an all-time low. Agriculture matters to our economy, to our balance of trade, to U.S. jobs, and to our national security.

Importantly, the bill before us is fully paid for so it doesn't increase the deficit. We offset the costs of using dollars from two conservation accounts that have never been spent on the conservation purposes that they were intended for. So there is zero impact on conservation programs, but it'll be helping farmers and ranchers.

I know many of my colleagues say we should be passing a 5-year farm bill instead of disaster relief. No one is more committed to enacting long-term farm policy than I am. I will continue to work that way. We passed a good one in the House Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Chairman Lucas, but I think everyone appreciates the time it will take to pass this House and get to conference. That is extensive, and something our producers don't have the time.

I'm disappointed in some of our farm groups that they've objected to the various ways the House is working and attempting to advance our Nation's farm policy. A number of these groups are the very same groups that insisted on dragging out this debate by trying to advance farm policy that only works, if at all, for one region of the country, or only for a couple of crops. Our livestock producers need help now, and that's what the House is about to do, I hope, and that is always respond in times of natural disaster. I urge my colleagues to vote for this bill.


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