By Dave Bergmeier
Freshman Kansas First District Congressman Roger Marshall plans to do his part on the House Agriculture Committee to preserve the crop insurance program because it helps grain producers as a risk management tool.
Rep. Marshall plans to closely work with Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, as well as his counterpart in the Senate, Pat Roberts, R-KS, to keep crop insurance in the budget, and both chairmen have strongly supported retaining it. Crop insurance is a $10 billion a year budget item. Some of the money is used to support crop insurance companies for delivering and underwriting subsidies for farmer premiums. President Donald Trump has proposed a 36 percent cut over a decade in the federal subsidized crop insurance program and a premium cap of $40,000.
Americans spend less on food per capita than any other country, Marshall said. Crop insurance is integral to delivering food at a reasonable cost, he said. Without crop insurance, Marshall believes it will significantly increase farmers’ risk and they are the ones who pay a significant cost of insurance, Marshall said.
“People don’t realize how risky farming is,” he said.
Crop insurance helps shoulder some of the production risk and that is good for consumers. He frames it in the context of thinking of a single mother with several kids and having a stable cost for food is necessary for her to make her budget work.
“That’s the person who will get hit hard,” he said.
Farm spending is a $100 billion a year budget. Eighty percent goes to nutrition programs, most notably the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Getting recipients jobs will help reduce the cost of food stamps, Marshall said, and he thinks steps Trump has taken are helping improve job opportunities.
Marshall believes food programs can continue to be used in a humanitarian way. He believes the Dole-McGovern humanitarian aid component of the farm bill that provides international food aid is effective and said the program has bipartisan support. Humanitarian food efforts also need to be supported within the U.S.
As lawmakers work to put together a 2018 farm bill, Trump proposes cutting 15 to 20 percent in all budgets except for defense, Marshall said.
Trump has found a path to get beef exported to China, and the U.S. is on target to deliver beef in mid-July—a victory for producers, who have not had access to the China market for a decade. Paths to Japan, Taiwan and Cuba appear to be opening for U.S. agriculture products, Marshall said, adding he made a campaign pledge to do all he can to help secure markets for Kansas commodities both here and abroad.
Farmers and ranchers have an advocate with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Marshall said.
“Since Secretary Perdue was confirmed I have seen a big change in the stance of the administration,” he said.
Perdue understands the importance of Mexico and Canada to U.S. agriculture. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has also changed the administration’s rhetoric. Marshall has visited with officials in Mexico who prefer U.S. farm commodities for their quality and the cost of transportation.
Since he started in January Marshall has also seen challenges in agriculture, most notably the March wildfire that swept through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and he could see firsthand how the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Service Agency officials were able to respond. The relationship he has developed with Conaway and former Chairman Frank Lucas, of Oklahoma, helped farmers and ranchers get federal relief.
Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.