House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., opened the first House Ag Committee farm bill field hearing of 2012 in upstate New York by summarizing his general goals for new multi-year farm legislation.
"First and foremost I want to give producers the tools to do what you do best; and that is to produce the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply literally in the history of the world," Lucas said. "To do this we must develop a farm bill that works for all regions and all commodities. We've repeatedly heard that a one-size-fits-all program will not work. The commodity title must give producers options so that they can choose the program that works best for them."
Lucas said he's also committed to writing a strong crop insurance program into the next farm bill, calling it the cornerstone of the safety net.
He voiced strong support for conservation programs and solicited input from producers on how to simplify them so they are easier for farmers and ranchers nationwide to use.
Specialty crops and dairy took center stage at the hearing in Saranac Lake, New York. According to the Chairman, the recent decline in milk prices coupled with rising production has once again demonstrated the need for Congress to modernize the dairy safety net.
"While I do not expect unanimity among dairy industry participants, I do encourage all industry participants, producers and processors alike to find some consensus on what kind of reform is needed," Lucas said. "The exact nature of the reform we include in the next farm bill will rely heavily on the input we receive today and in future hearings. With your help and guidance we would hope to develop a comprehensive package of reforms that are fiscally responsible and balanced with regards to size and region."
The Committee heard testimony from a trio of New York dairy farmers and each of them endorsed the National Milk Producers Federation's Foundation for the Future proposal. Dairy processors oppose the plan.