Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Ag Secretary meets with Texas producers

The future of American agriculture policy was at the forefront when the Southwest Council of Agribusiness hosted Washington dignitaries at its annual meeting in Lamesa last month.

Clarendon’s Michael Newhouse, representing the Panhandle Peanut Growers Association, said the meeting was an important opportunity for West Texas producers to inform those who will help shape the next farm bill.
Newhouse and other Southwest Council board members met with US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, US House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Midland), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and expressed the need for more support for cotton growers from the federal government.

Donley County producer Michael Newhouse with US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at B.E. Implement in Lamesa during the annual meeting of the Southwest Council of Agribusiness recently. Courtesy Photo / Michael Newhouse

“Every commodity has a baseline price that basically is what it takes for the farmer to produce,” Newhouse said. “If the market price falls below that, the government tries to help. They subsidize what we do, otherwise you couldn’t afford what you currently buy at the grocery store. But there is no protection [for producers] in cotton.”
Newhouse stressed the importance of ag producers being involved in the political process.

“People like Ted Cruz don’t know anything about farming, but groups like [the Southwest Council of Agribusiness] inform them as they write these bills,” Newhouse said.

The current farm bill was written in 2014 and expires in 2018. The current bill’s policies and price supports will end in 2019.

“From now until 2020, there is no relief for cotton,” Newhouse said.

Despite the focus on the cotton at the meeting, Newhouse said the Southwest Council represents all segments of the ag industry, including producers, implement dealers, bankers, and more.

“This is not a cotton deal or a peanut deal. It’s not about just sorghum or corn or cattle,” he said. “All producers have to be on the same page and work together.”

Fresh off visits to parts of Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey, Newhouse said Perdue and other leaders spoke about the importance of faith in the business of farming.

“Everyone talked about prayer and the need to get God back into things,” he said.

In his remarks, Perdue particularly called attention the “tenacity of the farmers of Texas, West Texas, and the High Plains” and emphasized the power of faith and prayer, noting that “only God can make it rain.”

“I don’t believe an atheist can be a farmer,” Perdue said. “You’ve got to have faith.”

Serving the Southwest Council as president of the Panhandle Peanut Growers, Newhouse said the September 22 meeting gave him a boost of optimism.

“It gave me hope because we have people who believe in God and who understand our needs helping us,” Newhouse said. “Farmers getting out and talking to their congressmen about their needs is so important, but many don’t understand that. It’s like people who complain but don’t vote. You have to be involved.”

The Southwest Council is an alliance of agricultural organizations, financial institutions, and businesses, established to actively advocate for strong agricultural policy, which is vital to the businesses and economy of the greater Southwest area including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado.

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