House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) spoke optimistically about the progress of the 2018 Farm Bill during a conference call organized by the American Dairy Coalition on Dec. 13. Emphasizing there have been over 100 hearings and listening sessions, he said, “We’re ready to go.” In earlier press interviews he said that a working draft of the bill had already been sent to the Congressional Budget Office. He said he had a meeting that day with Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS).
While the bill remains under wraps, he said that changes are being made for cotton growers and dairy producers. He said he wants cotton growers to be covered by crop insurance programs and he acknowledged that the dairy MMP program needs adjustments, but made no definite commitment during the phone call. He urged dairymen to try to come together to bring proposals supported by the whole industry. He predicted a bill could be passed as early as February.
On labor, he acknowledged dairy’s need for a year around program for immigrant workers. He said he supports the Goodlatte bill establishing a new category of H2C visas but said it is wrapped up in other immigration issues… DACA and e-verify… to name two, making the legislative path more difficult. He urged dairymen to keep explaining why immigration reform is needed.
“You have a good story… keep telling it until you’re sick of it, then tell it some more,” he said.
Speaking about trade and NAFTA, he said he had been to Canada to meet with his counterparts in the NAFTA negotiations. He said there is no chance that Canada will do away with their quota system, but he urged dairymen to advocate for the opportunities for export already provided under NAFTA. He did not predict where the Trump administration would end up with the NAFTA agreements.
While it was not referred to in the phone call, the House Ag Committee has a new, comprehensive web site for the farm bill now online… https://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill/