(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 []

                         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.