Roby Brings Alabama Farmers' Concerns to Farm Bill Hearing
In a recent Agriculture Committee Hearing, U.S. Representative Rep. Roby questions USDA administrators about the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and how agriculture programs can be streamlined to be more effective and efficient. The Agriculture hearing was another in a series of committee hearings examining farm programs to determine spending trends and to confirm how programs work together in preparation of the upcoming Farm Bill.
Rep. Roby’s line of questioning came directly from her recent farm bill listening session she held with the Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan in Alabama’s Second District on June 30, 2011. Many of the Alabama farmers who attended the hearing discussed the recent, unattended and negative impacts CRP has on the state and the need for change to ensure that they can continue to farm.
Under the CRP program, landowners may receive an annual rental payment for the term of their multi-year contract by removing land out of productive agriculture and into either grass or trees. In Alabama, CRP land is converted into LongLeaf Pine forests.
In the hearing, Rep. Roby tells USDA administrators, “Recently, we held a two hour listening session with farmers in Alabama and I did it in conjunction with our Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. The number one issue that kept coming up over and over again was CRP. This was not the first time that I heard this.
“In Alabama, this program was definitely useful in the beginning taking marginal lands out of production, but, as time has gone on, more and more viable land is being shifted out of production into LongLeaf Pine. One of the issues being discussed is in Alabama it would be much more valuable to have the option of grass, which would make it easier to move that land back into production if needed. Another issue is that farmers are competing with the federal government in finding land to rent and often times the presence of the government causes the price of land to increase drastically. And interestingly enough, one of the farmers who participated in our listening session last week that brought up and had concerns about the CRP was a timber owner and he said that the conversion of crop land to LongLeaf Pine has hurt him because it impacts the price of the timber produced.
“So, my question to both of you is whether Alabama is unique in seeing the usefulness of CRP diminishing? Or, has CRP served its purpose and is no longer needed? And what changes might we make to CRP to ensure that needed, much needed, land stays in productive agriculture?”