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Farm bill panel talks crop insurance, food stamps

By Josie Musico, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 10--LAMESA -- Hello, crop insurance; goodbye, direct payments.

That's what's in the new farm bill, panelists explained at the Lamesa Cotton Growers' annual membership meeting on Monday morning, March 10.

While adjusting to those new insurance programs, it pays to do your research, National Cotton Council chairman Wally Darneille said.

"It's going to be really important for crop producers to work with their insurance agents and know what questions to ask," he told a large group of farmers.

Darneille accompanied U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and Lamesa Cotton Growers outgoing president Shawn Holladay on a farm bill question-and-answer panel at the meeting.

Holladay pointed out producers may vary their insurance plan by different types of cropland.

"You can insure your dryland and irrigated separately on any policy," he said.

Conaway noted 80 percent of the funds in the farm bill are actually used for nutrition programs such as food stamps.

Although the new farm bill cuts food stamp spending by about 1 percent, the congressman said he would like to see more reform. He said about 10 percent of food stamp recipients are healthy adults with no dependents and should not rely indefinitely on government assistance.

"They're on food stamps without a work requirement, and that's a moral hazard," he said. "We all have hard times and the safety net should be there, but it should be a temporary fix -- it shouldn't be a permanent way of life."

Conaway said the number of U.S. food stamp recipients has increased from 23 million to 47 million in recent years, despite an economy that appears to be recovering.

"We don't really understand why that's happening," he said. "It's a legitimate conversation to have."

Conaway also discussed strategies to bring more Republican control to Washington, D.C. Middle-of-the-road voters unhappy with the Affordable Care Act will help, he said.

"We have a legitimate shot at taking the Senate back," he said. "Keeping the conversation on issues that are important to independents is going to be key."

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Darneille described Conaway as a friend of the cotton industry.

Holladay also praised the congressman's efforts in agriculture and encouraged his fellow producers to stay politically active.

"These partnerships are extremely important," he said. "Everybody has to be on board to get this going. We've got a lot of good people in a lot of good spots."

josephine.musico@lubbockonline.com

-- 766-8796

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@josiemusico

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(c)2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)

Visit the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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