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Ranking Member of Senate Ag Committee Reflects on First Farm Bill Field Hearing

Ranking Member of Senate Ag Committee Reflects on First Farm Bill Field Hearing
Budget cuts, regulations and the safety net were prime topics at hearing.

Earlier this week Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., held a farm bill hearing in Stabenow's home state of Michigan.

Senator Roberts says that the hearing was well attended and covered a wide range of topics from specialty crops to budget cuts to regulation.

"I can't go to any meeting without somebody standing up and saying, 'Pat how come we have all these regulations popping out of nowhere that are about to put me out of business'," Roberts said. "They say what are you guys doing back there. Well I say I'm an us guy not a you guy and we're trying to get a hold of these regulations. The President issued an executive order to make sure all the regulations have a cost benefit yardstick and then there is a lot of loopholes in that law and we are trying to close them and codify the President's executive order. Maybe we can get these agencies to slow down and let people go to work."

When it comes to budget cuts - Roberts says he's hearing one clear message that the cuts in agriculture shouldn't be disproportionate.

"We've already given at the store to some degree, especially on crop insurance," Roberts said. "Give us the number and we'll argue on it once we get the final number, but let us do the cutting let us do the work on that; everything will be on the table."

As for the survivability of a safety net Roberts says that both he and Stabenow agree that a safety net is needed.

"Commodity programs only represent 4% of the ag budget, 84% is nutrition and the rest is conservation and crop insurance," Roberts said. "There is a lot of talk in favor of crop insurance, improving crop insurance; I think we can sell that. I still think we can provide an adequate safety net. Maybe not adequate, but at least something that is there to guarantee the farmer during tough times."

Roberts says there are more hearings being scheduled in an attempt to hear from all geographic and commodity areas. At this time dates for additional hearings have not been set.

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