Senator Mark Warner met with dozens of farmers in Catawba Monday to find out what they would like to see included in the 2018 farm bill.
“We’ve got peanut farmers, and they need specific things put in there,” said Bruce Stanger, a beef cattle farmer in Montgomery County. “Our cotton farmers need it, our grain farmers.”
The farm bill is a key component of agricultural policy. Stanger said he hopes it will offer more protections for farmers when there is a difficult season.
“The agriculture industry needs some type of safety net to protect us,” Stanger said. “We can’t just pack up and hope to get another job. Everything we have is tied up in the farm.”
A big topic at Monday’s discussion was trade. Farmers we spoke with said international trade policies affect their farms here in Virginia.
Turkey and cattle farmer Craig Miller said he wants to see agricultural trade kept open to other countries.
“We work for an integrator, so we’re paid based on performance of our weights, our fee conversions,” Miller said.
According to officials with Sen. Warner’s office, agriculture is Virginia’s biggest industry, with a $70 billion economic impact each year.
A big challenge, Warner said, is making sure farm programs get the right funding.
“Why we need to deal with tax reform and entitlement reform – because all of these individual programs, if not, they’re going to get squeezed out,” Warner explained. “And that includes not just farm programs, but education, infrastructure, research and development. And as a business guy, that’s not the place you cut.”
Farm bills have previously been passed every four or five years. The current farm bill was signed into law in 2014 and funds ag programs through next year.