Farm Bill Frenzy

A group of Texas corn farmers visiting with legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for their industry. Left to right: Lindsey Bowers, Joe Reed, Heath Hill, Rep. Joe Barton, Aaron Martinka, Dee Vaughan, and Jimmy Wedel. Image courtesy of Texas Corn Producers Board.

As preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill begins, state and national farm groups are ramping up their advocacy efforts. For the Corn Producers Association of Texas, this is when their advocating efforts are put into high gear.

According to a Thrive Market article, the farm bill is a billion-dollar piece of legislation that essentially governs everything from nutrition assistance programs to crop and disaster insurance to governing risk management programs for commodity crops. The next farm bill will be passed in 2018, and officials have begun preparing to advocate for their industry.

The Corn Producers Association of Texas is directly involved in the bill and has begun preparations for the 2018 Farm Bill. David Gibson, Texas Corn Producers Board executive director and CPAT vice president, said the organization will hold multiple regional meetings around the state to seek input from producers.

“We’re asking the producers for their input on what worked from this current bill, what hasn’t worked so good, what changes or improvements they would like to see made, and then we’ll sit down as a board and determine how we go advocate on their behalf,” Gibson said.

CPAT works closely with Texas members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee including Chairman Mike Conaway, Jodey Arrington, and Filemon Vela. Gibson said Texas, in general, is positioned well for the farm bill because of these representatives.

Braden Gruhlkey, a corn farmer and TCPB member, said the previous farm bill gave him mixed emotions. Gruhlkey predicts the 2018 Farm Bill will look similar to the 2014 Farm Bill.

“I don’t really think they’re going to change a lot, to be honest with you,” Gruhlkey said. “As a whole, the 2018 Farm Bill will look a lot like the 2014 Farm Bill.”

CPAT is also a part of the Southwest Council of Agribusiness, which is a cooperative association between cotton, corn, wheat and sorghum growers, dairymen and cattle organizations, as well as agribusinesses like ag lenders and implement dealers. Gibson said they put things together for farm policy on the federal level and reach a general consensus.

Farm bill hearings will be held around the country and they are CPAT key points for what they want considered in the bill and it is one of the steps in conveying their message and policy. CPAT will send one of their directors and association president, Joe Reed, to be representatives. Gibson said they take growers to Washington, D.C. at least twice a year so they have a presence on Capitol Hill.

Stephanie Pruitt, the CPAT communications director, said it is important for Texas corn farmers to give themselves a voice. Pruitt said it is important for decision makers to hear from people who are directly affected by the farm bill.

“It means a lot whenever legislators and decision makers can hear from people who live in the districts and the regions that they’re from so that they can hear how it’s actually impacting the constituents who are voting for them,” Pruitt said.

Gibson said it is easy for agriculture to be outnumbered and CPAT will continue to work hard for their corn growers and agriculture in general.

“One of the things I’d say we hope is an outcome is that we wind up with a farm bill that will provide some type of safety net that ensures our guys can stay in business,” Gibson said.