Kansas wheat farmer testifies at Farm Bill hearing

Posted February 23, 2017

The nation’s first farm bill hearing took place in Manhattan, Kansas, on February 23.

Ken Wood, a wheat farmer from Dickinson County, Kansas, and president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, provided testimony on behalf of Kansas wheat farmers.  

Wheat is an important crop for Kansas. With record yields during the 2016 harvest, came record stockpiles of wheat in Kansas and around the world, resulting in historically low prices. Many feel that these low prices and a struggling farm economy are what caused a decrease of nearly 1 million fewer acres planted last fall -- the second lowest planted wheat acres in Kansas in over a century.

Low prices and rising costs are placing even more stress on the Kansas wheat farmer, forcing them to cut budgets and find efficiencies. This situation highlights the need for federal programs like crop insurance and illustrates the vital importance of a farm safety net.

Crop insurance, for me, is the most important segment of the “Farm Safety Net.” When a natural disaster looms on the horizon, whether it is a drought, flood, or in my case, a tornado, we know that crop insurance will help keep us in business.

On May 25, 2016, my farm, home, vehicles, most of my machinery, and approximately 300 acres of my crops were destroyed by an EF 4 tornado. The availability of crop insurance was not the deciding factor, but certainly a contributing factor in my decision to rebuild my business. I honestly don’t think that I would have had the courage to start over without having the protection that crop insurance offers. For most of us, crop insurance will not guarantee a “good year,” but it offers the promise of “another year.”

Despite passage of a five year Farm Bill, some in Congress continue to come after Title 1 farm programs and the federal crop insurance program. Efforts to cut crop insurance have come after the federal share of premium support, either through hard caps or through establishing AGI limitations on eligibility. Such caps would limit participation and make crop insurance more expensive for all producers.

Increasing trade is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase commodity prices and improve the rural economy. Kansas ranks as the 8th largest state in terms of exports of agricultural products. Because of this, KAWG has been a major supporter of international trade deals such at NAFTA and TPP. On average, half of the wheat grown in Kansas is exported. Without trade, the Kansas farmer will continue to struggle.

While in Manhattan for the hearing, Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Congressman Roger Marshall took time to tour the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and to hear about research being conducted on behalf of wheat farmers.