The House Agriculture concluded its week long listening tour on the farm bill on Saturday in Modesto, California at the Modesto Junior College campus. Five House lawmakers, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), heard from dozens of witnesses representing the diverse agricultural economy of California.  

California Republicans Jeff Denham (R-Stanislaus), David Valadao (R-Kings), Doug LaMalfa (R-Butte) also attended the session, along with Democrat Dwight Evans (D-Pennsylvania).  Committee members received consistent messaging from farmers throughout the listening tour. As lawmakers begin drafting the Farm Bill’s reauthorization, the agriculture industry provided the following priorities:  fix the dairy program; do not separate or block-grant nutrition programs; fund research; and increase easement and conservation acreage.  

Speakers in Modesto were particularly concerned about the fate of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in this difficult budget climate. In a recent poll conducted by Farm Futures, farmers pointed to the Farm Bill as the most important issue for Congress to address next year.  Overall, 49% of farmers gave President Trump an A or B grade on agriculture issues through his first six months in office.

When Congress returns from recess in September, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) will focus on beginning the drafting process for the Farm Bill reauthorization, but the Senate’s backlogged agenda will delay progress. Concerns from farmers over the Farm Bill timeline were not abated by Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowas) comments this week when he revealed the Senate will not tackle the Farm Bill until tax reform is addressed.