Congressman Vela: Diversity of Ag Committee Benefits Farmers Everywhere

The chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over farm commodity programs said yesterday that the unique perspectives and bipartisanship of his panel help it function well for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“The demographic and geographic diversity inside the House Agriculture Committee make it special,” Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) said at yesterday’s International Sweetener Symposium.

Each member has different experiences and priorities to share, which ensures that farm policies work better for the whole agricultural industry, not just a handful of crops, according to Vela, who chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. And working with growers of all shapes, sizes, and specialties is a priority for the panel, he said.

“We held our first hearing back in May, and we brought in farmers from all around the country to talk about the general conditions of the farm economy,” he said. “What we learned is that no matter where they came from – we had farmers from California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida and elsewhere – folks are having a very difficult time.”

Some growers are being hit hard by overseas tariffs that have dried up markets, he explained. Others have struggled with weather disasters, are experiencing mounting financial pressures, and have faced losses that traditional risk management tools are not equipped to cover.

Vela said Congress was fortunate to pass the 2018 Farm Bill when it did, because delayed action would have left farmers with fewer tools to weather the storm. That bill included a continuation of America’s no-cost sugar policy, which Vela said is critically important to sugarcane farmers in his district.

“With respect to sugar policy…the approach of leaving well enough alone is the right approach,” he explained. The policy operates without taxpayer cost, and Vela said that he would continue to lead efforts to rebuff any political attacks on sugar farmers in the future.

Similar sentiments about sugar policy were made by lawmakers throughout this week’s meetings, which underscores the thesis of Vela’s speech. Members of the Agriculture Committee are listening to the priorities of their colleagues and are reaching across the aisle to come together on behalf of all farmers, not just those in their districts.