May 5, 2023


US Farm Bureau president emphasises importance of farm bill




American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall emphasised on May 2 the importance of the US farm bill during testimony before the US Senate Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade.


The hearing focused on commodity programmes, credit and crop insurance.


Duvall told lawmakers that the wide-ranging farm bill touches every family in the United States, not just those in rural America. "A country that cannot feed its people is not secure, so the strong farm policy that supports a strong food supply truly is part of a smart national security strategy," Duvall said.


After his opening statement, Duvall took questions from lawmakers, including Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tina Smith, who asked about Farm Bureau priorities for the farm bill. Duvall responded that farmers across the country have identified two key issues.


"The first thing you hear about is [we've got to] keep crop insurance intact. And, we need to broaden it for specialty crops that don't have the opportunity to use it," he said. "The second thing is they talk about the cost of inputs and that the Title I reference prices do not match up with the cost of production, so it is not a true safety net."


On Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's question about the potential impact of reducing funding for critical farm and nutrition programmes, Duvall said: "If you take those programmes away, it brings more uncertainty to the markets. Those programmes we already mentioned are a public-private investment in agriculture, which keeps food at a more reasonable cost for all the consumers across the country, and it also [gives] farmers an opportunity to continue farming after a major disaster, or drought, or whatever they might be facing. So, for the interest of the whole country and all the consumers and national security, we need to make sure that we have this farm bill that not only supports farmers, but also the people who are in a part of their life where they need a hand up and a helping hand through nutrition programmes."


When asked by Sen. Debbie Stabenow about what investments could make US famers more competitive, Duvall responded: "We are being outspent by other countries, especially China, three-to-one in research and development dollars, the statistics tell me. Research and development is what keeps us on the cutting edge, it keeps us more competitive across the world, it keeps us more sustainable, it makes us more friendly to the environment and it makes our businesses more efficient in having new research coming down the pipe."


He also said there is growing interest in farm bill-funded conservation programmes, adding: "The list is long for people waiting to get funded for EQIP and many other programmes that are offered through the conservation programmes... What people don't really realise is that if it's market and voluntary and science based, farmers will step up and take advantage of it and do all of the right things because it is a partnership. To the tune of 140 million acres across America, farmers have stepped up in those conservation programmes. They will continue to do that in conservation and climate as long as it's voluntary, market-based."


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