The House Agriculture Committee conducted the third of four ’12 farm bill field hearings in Jonesboro, Ark., to enable its members to hear first-hand how farm policy is affecting farmers before the next farm bill is developed. The hearing was hosted by Committee Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) and Committee Member Crawford (R-Ark.). They were joined by Committee members Neugebauer (R-Texas) and Stutzman (R-Ind.).

Eight of the 10 witnesses were multi-row crop producers, and included cotton producers: Dow Brantley, England, Ark., and Randy Veach, Manila, Ark.; Walt Corcoran, Eufaula, Ala.; Tim Burch, Newton, Ga.; Bowen Flowers, Clarksdale, Miss.; Paul Combs, Kennett, Mo.; and John Owen, Rayville, La.

With cotton as their primary focus, the testimonies of Corcoran and Flowers emphasized the need for completion of a farm bill this year as those involved in production agriculture make long-term investment decisions based on federal farm policy. It was noted that the combination of the marketing loan, Direct Payments and Counter-cyclical Payments has provided a good safety net, and in recent years, has required minimal federal spending. The need for sound crop insurance and risk management tools in new farm legislation was conveyed along with support of the NCC’s innovative Stacked Income Protection Plan. Known as STAX, that revenue-based crop insurance product would replace the direct and counter-cyclical payments for cotton, thus directly addressing one of the programs found to be at fault in the World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil.

Corcoran testified that, “In the opinion of the U.S. cotton industry, this structure (STAX) will best utilize reduced budget resources, respond to public criticism by directing benefits to growers who suffer losses resulting from factors beyond their control, and build on the existing crop insurance program, thus ensuring no duplication of coverage and allowing for program simplification. I strongly urge that crop insurance not be weakened during this farm bill. In today’s environment of volatile prices and high input costs, effective risk management has never been more important.”

Flowers implored the Committee not to impose any further restrictions on payment eligibility including lower limits or income means tests in the ’12 farm bill saying “effective farm policy must maximize participation without regard to size or farm income.” He reminded the Committee that the ’08 farm law contained significant changes with respect to payment limitations and payment eligibility – and included the most comprehensive and far-reaching reform to payment limitations in 20 years.