Disaster programs and Farm Service Agency performance were scrutinized during a Wednesday morning hearing of the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. Part of the House’s ongoing audit of farm programs, the latest hearing hit on the FSA’s manner of checking a farmer’s eligibility for programs, the updating of antiquated FSA computer equipment and the time it takes for SURE payments to reach the farm.

While farmers “do the hard work of producing our food, we have to do our part to support them,” said Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Without a safety net, a few bad seasons can put a farm out of business. When we lose that source of production, we don’t usually get it back.”

“When I talk to farmers and ranchers, I hear a constant refrain: we’re not asking for a handout; we just need a floor in place for when the bottom drops out. 

“That’s what crop insurance and Title I programs provide: a floor, a safety net for food production.”

Showing how the programs matter in reality, Lucas spoke on the severe, ongoing drought in the Southwest and how wheat planting this fall is threatened. Due to this, disaster sign-ups are inevitable and any fixes to streamline the payment process need to be done quickly.

Further, those complaining about the “enormous” expense of such protections for farmers are misguided, said Lucas. “The costs of losing food production surely outweigh the costs of a safety net. Especially when you consider that many Title 1 programs don’t kick in until prices fall below a set trigger.”

With so many of his fellow legislators deriding almost any government spending, the agriculture community may take some solace in Lucas’ claim that “there aren’t enormous savings to be found from cutting farm programs. They comprise less than one-half of one percent of the federal budget. That’s only 50 cents out of every 100 dollars.”