Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, told Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board members he would welcome their input on the debate over the 2018 Farm Bill, the nation’s most comprehensive farm legislation.
Brat spoke to representatives of the state’s largest farm group Aug. 24 in a wide-ranging discussion of federal issues facing farmers. He noted Congress will tackle tax reform this fall, which should help all small businesses.
“We’re hoping to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to maybe the mid-20s,” but there are still a lot of proposals floating around, Brat noted.
Regarding the farm bill, “let me know how I can help you with that,” he suggested.
The next farm bill is scheduled to go before Congress next year, and farmers are worried legislators may further diminish the farm safety net by reducing funding for crop insurance, conservation and other farm programs.
“Crop insurance is very important to us. It’s not something where we have the option of rolling the dice and taking a gamble,” remarked M.L. Everett Jr., a Southampton County farmer and VFBF board member.
Farmers also would like Congress to either complete the next farm bill by the end of the year or defer the old bill until the following year so they can plan more efficiently, Everett said. “The 2014 Farm Bill was actually passed in February,” long after growers had finalized their plans for the upcoming growing season, he explained.
“Beyond the need for food security, farmers have a special place in the hearts of everyone, so they will find a sympathetic ear about the next farm bill with me,” Brat commented.
Other federal priorities for Virginia farmers include reforming the seasonal agriculture worker program and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA is widely credited with boosting U.S. farm exports to Canada and Mexico.
“We are in dire need of some labor reform,” explained Robert Mills, a Pittsylvania County farmer and VFBF board member. “We’re talking about having an available, legal workforce that is documented.”