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Farm groups unite as Farm Bill targeted for cuts

Sen. Ben Sasse talks to Brandon Hunnicutt who farms near Giltner (NTV News)

Farmers stand united, in the face of proposed cuts to Farm Bill programs.

The state's major ag groups come together at the fair, telling Nebraska's entire congressional delegation to protect the safety net, that allows farmers to feed the world even in tough times.

Sen. Deb Fischer said the Farm Bill is vital.

"Ag is the economic driver in this state, one in four jobs is related to agriculture," she said.

Fischer, a Cherry County rancher says funding is under fire.

“We are hearing from some groups in Washington that are targeting the Farm Bill as the number one program to eliminate. That cannot happen," she said.

Pres. Donald Trump has proposed billions in cuts, specifically for crop insurance. The program requires farmers to pay in, and corn growers say that's far more effective than having the government pay out disaster by disaster.

Steve Ebke of the Nebraska Corn Growers said, "Studies conducted by our national affiliate indicate the current crop insurance program, which requires substantial farmer premiums is faar more effective than any ad hoc disaster program."

Sen. Ben Sasse said farmers need crop insurance as a tool to manage risk, but he's skeptical a Republican-controlled Congress can pass a Farm Bill soon, given the struggles on health care and other issues.

He said, "I think we need predictability. We need five and six year long farm bills that are done early. I don't think that's likely to happen here, but we need predictability."

He pointed out 80 percent of what's called the Farm Bill goes to food stamps. In the long term, he'd like to see that re-evaluated, to see if that should be combined with farm programs. But for now, he says the practical thing is to keep the bill together.

He said, "It's unlikely you're going to take a complicated pairing of programs and create two separate programs, food stamps and crop insurance and imagine they're both going to move and get floor time."

Most of the discussion at the Farm Bureau-sponsored listening session at the State Fair revolved around crop production.

On the livestock side, producers would like $150 million a year to build a vaccine bank in case of food and mouth disease (FMD).

Troy Stowater of the Nebraska Cattlemen said, "The ability to rapidly vaccinate susceptible livestock in the face of an outbreak is critical."

Rep. Adrian Smith highlighted the need to support trade programs in the Farm Bill, that help promote Nebraska products around the world.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said farmers give the country quiet strength, while Rep. Don Bacon says the nation needs policy that supports this vital industry.

He said, "Less than 10% of our income goes to food. No other country in the world has that blessing and it's because America's farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. We've got to sustain that."

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