Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
SEVERE KANSAS WEATHER
(Senate - May 03, 2017)
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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 76 (Wednesday, May 3, 2017)] [Pages S2728-S2729] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] SEVERE KANSAS WEATHER Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I come to the floor this evening to talk about winter storms that hit Kansas and surrounding States over the weekend, destroying crops and killing livestock. We face many challenges, and the Senator from Utah just described a serious circumstance for many people in this country. I applaud his efforts to try to find the solution. The challenges that we face in Kansas after this weekend are another vivid reminder of the difficulties that each day our farm families and ranchers face trying to produce a crop or raise cattle. A farm family's economic situation can change in a moment's notice. What happened over the weekend was 17, 18, 20 inches of snow and high winds with a devastating blizzard, and it was preceded by temperatures into the twenties. The consequence to the wheat crop is dramatic. A weekend weather event like this is often just an inconvenience for most people. However, it is the difference between having a crop to harvest or having nothing to sell. It is the difference between earning a living and not earning a living. It is the difference between staying on the farm or ranch and not being able to. While the extent of the damage is being assessed--and we don't know exactly what that will be--it is clear that many wheat producers will likely have lost their entire crop. We have about 7.5 million acres of wheat planted in Kansas, and many of those acres--perhaps up to about half--were harshly impacted by this snowstorm and winter conditions. Having a bountiful production is especially important for farmers at times of low commodity prices. That is what we are in now. The price of wheat, and the price of cattle, the price of corn, they are historically low. These are already challenging times. While the overall farm income, as a result of that, has been cut in half since 2013, Kansas producers fortunately were able to overcome that, to some degree, because we had bountiful harvests, great crops, high yields. Yet the number of bushels these producers will have to sell now as a result of these storms is clearly in question. With low prices, we need high yields and large harvests. We clearly will not [[Page S2729]] have that. Those of us from ag States often talk about the importance of crop insurance and farm programs for producers. This storm reminds us, once again, the importance of that safety net. A farmer who lost an entire wheat crop over one weekend cannot afford to continue to farm without crop insurance to help cover the losses. These farmers in Kansas would either go out of business or require ad hoc disaster assistance, something that used to happen during my earlier days in Congress. Every time there was a snowstorm, a freeze, a drought that devastated a crop, Congress was asked to provide ad hoc disaster assistance to make up for that challenge. Giving farmers the ability to purchase affordable crop insurance means they have the ability to survive, to farm for another year. It is critical that we continue to promote and protect crop insurance in the upcoming farm bill. Cattle producers and feeders also experienced losses due to this storm. About 75 percent of the cattle on feed in the country--75 percent of the cattle that are being fed in this country, ultimately for consumption in the grocery stores or restaurants, are located in the area hit by this winter storm. Feed lots are reporting the loss will total into the thousands of head of cattle. This impact comes only weeks after wildfires in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma destroyed ranches and killed thousands of cattle just a few weeks back. Farmers and ranchers are some of the most resilient people. They remain optimistic in times of very difficult circumstances. Facing potential disaster and adversity every year, these men and women continue to bear the burden of producing food, fuel, and fiber for our country and for the world. I would offer my prayers to those farmers and ranchers harmed by the snowstorms and these prairie fires, and I would, once again, express my commitment to making sure they have the tools necessary to survive this and future weather disasters. In discussing the challenges currently being faced by farmers, I also want to take a moment to mention my disappointment that the budget- neutral cotton provision was left out of the omnibus legislation that was released earlier this week and we expect to vote on tomorrow or the next day. As a result of the 2014 farm bill, cotton farmers, including those cotton farmers in Kansas, were no longer eligible to participate in title I of the farm programs. Without an effective safety net, cotton producers have especially felt the impact of the downturn in the farm economy due to those low prices. For over a year, the cotton industry has worked with both authorizers and appropriators to fix the issues stemming from the 2014 farm bill. So it is really discouraging when their proposals met with resistance at the very last minute, not because of the merits of the proposals but because of unrelated issues with dairy policy that were not resolved. I, too, want to strengthen the protection provided for dairy producers in the farm bill. Kansas is one of the fastest growing dairy-producing States in the Nation. Helping cotton farmers ought not be contingent on issues with dairy policy. I have heard from a number of Kansas cotton producers about the importance of this proposal, and my message to them remains the same: I understand the economic hardship that they are facing, and I am committed to working with the new Secretary of Agriculture to find a solution to the cotton problems and issues they face, as well as many others facing farmers and ranchers today. I ask my colleagues to keep in their thoughts and prayers those farmers and ranchers across the Nation who, through no fault of their own, are struggling today because of weather and fire. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island. Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business for up to 18 minutes. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________