EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and represents a large farming constituency in his home state. In this leadoff article, he takes a closer look at the importance of effective ag policy in the new Farm Bill. In the other three reports that follow, NCC economist Gary Adams, Texas producer Ronnie Hopper and Georgia producer Jimmy Webb offer their perspectives on the Farm Bill debate and the impact of the 2012 elections.
The start of a new year means new beginnings. It is an opportunity to set goals and re-evaluate past challenges. The year 2012 brings in great anticipation for the agriculture community and our country. With a Farm Bill and elections on the docket, we have much to look forward to and much for which to prepare.
The cotton industry has always been a strong influence in Washington and a thoughtful voice for production agriculture. Your participation in the development and passage of solid farm policy is instrumental. Legislators count on each of you to share your firsthand knowledge and experiences in order to shape effective policy. Your contributions, at all levels, have earned cotton the confidence and respect of agriculture leaders and friends on Capitol Hill.
As you gather for the annual Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Orlando, Fla., I would like to share with you my perspective on how to make this a successful year.
Become actively involved in your local, state and national political parties. Producers can make up for fewer numbers on the ground through their greater intensity of political involvement. In this way, you can help ensure that leaders elected at every level of government understand the importance of production agriculture.
As you work to educate your elected officials, do not forget to ask the lenders, implement dealers and other Main Street businesses to take part. Businesses across your community have just as much at stake this year as you do. Production agriculture helps provide good paying jobs and contributes towards economic growth.
Be proactive in advocating for production agriculture in your community. Take time to write letters to the editor, be a guest on a local radio program or speak to classrooms and service organizations. You can also participate on behalf of farm groups in a local food bank or other civic and charitable efforts.
Your involvement will not only drive home agriculture’s importance to the community, but it is also the right thing to do.
Encourage other producers to get involved in the National Cotton Council. The Council and other producer groups play an important role in policymaking, but their effectiveness is directly proportional to your involvement. The more involved producers are, the larger the voice each group will have to advocate for sensible farm policy.
Likewise, it is important that all the various agriculture groups respect the unique needs and interests of producers across the country. Producers must work together, not only in Washington or at the statehouse, but also as neighbors. A united front for production agriculture cannot be over-estimated in the fight to hold good policy in the face of uniformed opposition.
Strength In Numbers
By working together, we can help foster understanding across all of the producer groups from the ground up and find the common solutions everyone can agree on. Maintaining camaraderie will be paramount in standing up for production agriculture in the coming year.
So, what more can you do in preparation for the 2012 elections and the Farm Bill?
The fact that you are reading this column indicates that you have already taken the first important step: You have decided to become involved in determining your future, rather than leave your fate in the hands of a few. Candidates for office, lawmakers, fellow producers, producer groups and others in your community all have influence over shaping the next Farm Bill. Your personal involvement both politically and legislatively will play a key role to ensuring our decision makers are properly informed.
Your approach to advocacy, outreach and education efforts demonstrate a serious regard for your civic responsibility. This is reflected in the impressive representation you, as cotton producers, have in Washington. They are leaders with a strong voice who understand how to be team players in the development of good farm policy.
Agriculture has a great story to tell. Americans are blessed to have not only the largest food and fiber supply in the world, but also the hardest working farmers and ranchers. It is a story that more Americans need to hear.
The agricultural community has a long history of solving difficult problems with practical solutions. Time and again, agriculture has proven it is possible to solve today’s challenges with today’s resources. From life on the farm to legislating in Washington, farmers and ranchers have learned to make do with what they are given – a lesson we should all take to heart.
Ag’s Major Contributions
A perfect example is the commitment agriculture has shown to contribute to deficit reduction. Agriculture has experienced significant cuts while the rest of government has continued to grow. For the past six years, farm policy has operated not only within, but under budget. It is common sense farm policy that has enabled two percent of the population to provide the food, feed and fiber to the remaining 98 percent.
As we begin another new year and face one of the most daunting fiscal challenges in generations, I ask that you continue to engage and stay involved. Production agriculture is an American success story; your livelihood as an industry and our success as a nation depend on spreading the message of your good work.
Contact Rep. Mike Conaway’s office in Washington at (202) 225-3605.