As a long time farmer, I understand that our nation’s farmers and ranchers produce the safest food in the world. It is in the best interest of all Americans and our national security to maintain our agricultural infrastructure. Farm bills over the years have changed, but the original purpose has provided Americans with the lowest costs and most abundant food supply in the world.  

In recent years, two major changes have occurred: tying farm support to environmentally-friendly practices and supporting net farm income rather than government policies in effect setting commodity prices. Previous government policies resulted in propping up foreign competition and production, putting American farmers and taxpayers in a precarious position. Changing from commodity price support to net farm income allows the market to determine the price, resulting in an increase of exports as the Federal government no longer buys and stores surpluses.

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What should our farm policy be going forward? In light of our tremendous budget challenges and Federal debt, I believe American farmers are willing to do their part. Even farmers in a state like Ohio recognize that agriculture will not escape scrutiny during the nation's ongoing budget crisis. But to protect all of our interest as was originally conceived in the first farm bill almost 80 years ago, we need to ensure that farmers have the tools they need and the support of a strong safety net to provide a safe and abundant food supply.  

I have often said that when I plant a crop, I get one chance a year to get it right. If I don’t get it right or things beyond my control impact that crop negatively, I have to suffer the consequences and look towards next year to try again. It doesn’t matter what the price of wheat is; if you don’t get a crop, you don’t make any money and risk going out of business.

We must maintain the safety net so we don’t lose our infrastructure and family farmers to factors beyond their control. Every year farmers risk a tremendous amount of capital planting their crops and gamble that mother nature will be cooperative. With their income riding on a crop’s outcome, the job doesn’t offer a steady paycheck. Crop market prices fluctuate and so do yields. Overhead costs rise, particularly when diesel costs increase. And natural disasters and disease can wipe out or heavily damage a crop. These disasters epitomize the need for strong, reliable safety net programs. 

I believe that in this next farm bill, the vehicle to protect farmers from weather and price disruptions will be a viable crop insurance program. Crop insurance, along with other initiatives such as the ACRE program, can be tailored to reduce risk and protect the viability of our farming infrastructure. We also need to ensure that risk management tools like a sound futures market that allows farmers to price their crops continue to be available. These programs provide farmers with some level of certainty and confidence as they make their management decisions to risk a tremendous amount of capital by putting that seed in the ground. 

American agriculture is vital to a strong economy as it not only provides Americans with stable, safe and affordable food supply, but it also plays a major role in energy production, enhancing the environment, and supplying a long list of raw materials that support many other industries and jobs. I look forward to crafting the next farm bill to enhance our food security, strengthen risk management tools and protect the financial wellness of our farmers.