Floor Updates

Johanns, Grassley, Kyl

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 11 2012

03:39 PM

Senator Johanns: (2:14 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Today's farmers are certainly some of the most sophisticated and talented business people in our nation. The fruits of their labor produce an abundance of healthy, low-cost food for Americans and, for that matter, people around the world. In fact, trade currently accounts for more than 25% of all U.S. farm receipts. One out of every three crop acres - one out of three - is now supported. Supports reached $136 billion. Our efficient support system including handling and processing and distribution of our food and our agricultural products creates millions of U.S. jobs. Given the projected global population growth of an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050, U.S. agriculture is positioned to experience significant growth in just a few years. Farm bill ensures that USDA maintains a focus on maintaining current export markets and gaining access to new emerging markets for U.S. food and farm products. This is the first farm bill in recent history that does not pay farmers a specific payment just because they are farmers. You see, farmers have come to realize that risk management is best handled with crop insurance, and in fact in many listening sessions I had around the state, virtually no one asked for the continue the continuation of direct payments. The bill actually saves $15 billion from commodity crop support by eliminating four programs, including direct payments, countercyclical payments, the average crop revenue election program called ACRE, and the supplemental revenue assistance program called, SURE. It does not raise loan rates. The price levels that have traditionally triggered the making of payments, and it focuses the farm program on revenue, not price, something I proposed as the United States Secretary of Agriculture when I served in the cabinet. I would remind my colleagues that our job in writing a Farm bill is not to protect the interests of specific commodity groups. Instead, the farm bill should be about preserving the health of our agricultural community. This Farm bill continues a history of steps in that direction. It seeks to minimize distortions and allows farmers to respond to market incentives, not determine by artificial prices set in a federal statute. I'm also glad to see a step forward on payment limits and changes to ensure that those who receive government payments are actively engaged in farming. And I'm especially pleased with the efforts to streamline and simplify the conservation programs. That's an issue I've heard a lot about. This bill actually consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13. In fact, I proposed similar changes as Ag secretary during the last Farm bill process. The improvements reduce costs as well as make the programs more farmer friendly This bill also provides for the basic research at USDA universities and elsewhere that is needed to meet the demand for our farmers to produce more food on less land. And it does so in a way that includes new avenues to ensure that important work continues in these times of very tight federal budgets. Finally, I am pleased that this bill builds on efforts to encourage beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans and others looking for careers in agriculture. It's important to me that we keep this Farm bill simple and as streamlined as possible. And I think we can agree that a bill that eliminates nearly 100 federal programs does just that. Given our nation's daunting budget situation, it is appropriate that this bill saves $23.6 billion, taking yet another step in the right direction to reforming farm policy over the last 21st century."

Senator Grassley: (2:56 PM)
  • Spoke on the Hurwitz nomination.

Senator Kyl: (3:17 PM)
  • Spoke on the Hurwitz nomination.
  • Spoke on the economy.
    • SUMMARY "Last Friday, the President of the United States said "the private sector is doing just fine." Now he said that He was talking about economically. His office later explained that what he really was talking about is the comparison between the public sector and the private sector, and I take him at his word there. The President explained this and I'll quote it in full. He said "where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government. Oftentimes cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the help they have in the past from the federal government or don't have the flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in." I think that is generally true, but here are the key points I would make in response. First everyone - not just government employees - are suffering. They are struggling in the Obama economy. Yes, the number of government jobs has decreased during the last 40 months since President Obama took office, but overall employment in government has increased on the whole in recent years, even with the reductions that have occurred in the last couple of years. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total government employees added up to 21,847,000,000 rounded off in January of 2006. That's just a little over six years ago. 21,847,000,000. Last month by comparison total he government employees added up to 21,969,000,000. There are a few more government employees today - state, federal and local - than there were six years ago. How did we get by in 2006? I think we were doing just fine. I think the reality is when a private firm faces financial difficulty, usually the first area that the firm looks to in terms of saving money is its workforce. And it's too bad. But frequently firms have to lay off workers because they simply can't afford to continue to pay that many workers. The good news and I'll just give the experience of a friend of mine in Arizona who said this recession was probably the best thing that happened to us because it forced us to look at our workforce, how we did business, whether we can make savings. He said today we're making more money than we ever have, even with a lower workforce, because we found that we could make do and make the improvements that made us more efficient. We're asking that to be done in government. Government doesn't have a right to continue to grow and grow and grow and grow. Government should be as efficient as the private sector, including with respect to the number of people that it hires to do the work that has to be done. After all, the private sector has to take care of paying both the employees in the private sector and the employees in the government sector. Who pays government employees? All of our constituents. The people in the private sector. So we in the government have an obligation to run the governments - federal, state and local - as efficiently, as leanly as we possibly can Here's the larger point. As the Wall Street Journal points out the reason the government workforce has shrunk since January of 2009 is not due to smaller budgets or dwindling aid, as the president suggested. As the revenues to state and local governments increased in the last two years. The main cost is rising health care to government workers. We've seen the state of Wisconsin having to deal with that to make some reductions which caused a lot of political turmoil in the state. But in the end the voters of the state said we agree, we need to cut government costs as it relates to the health care and pension commitments that we have made to our government employees. While government has experienced some job losses, it's important to remember that benefits enjoyed by government workers are far superior to those enjoyed by those employed in the private sector."