Farm Bill Conference, Endangered Species Act, and Working on Solutions to our Debt Problem

Meeting with my Agricultural Advisory Group in Abilene
Abilene Ag Advisory Group

Moving Forward on the Farm Bill

I was honored to be appointed to the House-Senate conference committee on the Farm Bill on Saturday.  A conference committee is created to resolve the differences between legislation passed by the House and Senate.  While both the House and Senate strengthened crop insurance and moved to more market-based policies, there are still some differences we’ll have to bridge.  For instance, while the House was able to save $40 billion from food stamps by closing loopholes and reinforcing work standards, the Senate only made $4 billion in cuts.  The House also structured commodity support a bit differently than the Senate.  Nevertheless, I think we can find consensus and pass long-term policy. I was really pleased that my Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) was included in both bills, and I’m confident it will be included in the final legislation. SCO allows farmers to purchase insurance for shallow losses that could drive a farm out of business over time.  

I’m looking forward to starting work on our conference committee.  Our farmers and ranchers are being asked to produce more food and fiber than ever before to feed and clothe our country.  They put a lot on the line to do that every year, risking droughts, floods, and uncertain markets.  We ask a lot of our farmers and ranchers.  Let's give them a five-year farm bill to help them meet those demands.

Improving the Endangered Species Act

Last week, I took part in a forum on improving the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with other members of Congress and experts from across the country.  It was a productive discussion, and I think we identified some good ideas that will make the ESA work better for landowners, businesses, and wildlife. 

At the forum, I introduced an idea to improve state and federal cooperation on ESA listing decisions.  Local experts often have the most knowledge of the complex relationship between a species and its habitat.  After all, these animals live in their backyard.  They know which actions are more likely to work, and which may need adjusting. 

In our current system, states often don’t have the opportunity to prevent a listing under ESA.  If we can give states more input into the ESA process before a species is proposed for a listing, and more authority to manage species and their habitat, we should be able to prevent endangered or threatened listings.  That will save time and money for everyone. 

My bill would require the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to give states 90 days’ notice before issuing a proposed listing.  FWS would issue criteria describing what would be necessary to prevent a listing. This gives states the opportunity to develop a conservation plan that can prevent a listing before it is proposed, instead of having to do so with a listing – and all the associated consequences – already hanging over their head.  I look forward to working with the appropriate stakeholders to further develop this legislation, and ensure we can prevent more ESA listings with state-led conservation efforts in the future.

Action Item: Working on Solutions

The Treasury Department has announced that they will run out of money to pay the bills on October 17th unless the debt ceiling is raised and they are allowed to borrow more money.  That’s not exactly true—the government is still receiving tax income every day which can be used to fund our obligations.  So the President can choose to prevent the U.S from defaulting on our commitments.  I hope he does that.  Nevertheless, the time for solutions is now.  House Republicans have been offering solutions every day.  We’ve passed 15 bills so far that would fund some of the most critical government operations, including veterans benefits, pediatric cancer research, air traffic safety, and benefits for the families of deceased service members.  We’re also working on solutions that would reduce our spending, so we don’t keep hitting our debt ceiling and increasing the amount our children and grandchildren will owe.  $17 trillion in debt is not the legacy I want to pass on to the next generation.