In his opening remarks, Cong. Boustany expressed his concern about the sluggish economy, “the lack of leadership from the White House,” and questions about the Congressional bipartisan Super Committee charged with reducing America’s debt.
He offered his strongest comments on federal agencies which are increasingly issuing regulations affecting all segments of the economy.
The congressman said he supports legislation which would require the federal agencies to submit to congressional oversight. “The real focus is in rolling back some of these regulations,” said Boustany.
Dr. Mike Strain, commissioner of Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), concurred with Boustany regarding federal regulations. He noted his department is required to obtain approval from the Louisiana Legislature before imposing any regulatory orders.
Noting Louisiana has experienced an 18 percent increase in exports, Dr. Strain said agriculture was the only sector of American economy to show a net gain.
The commissioner also cited the need to obtain federal funding to dredge slit from the Lake Charles shipping channel.
Boustany, who invited Dr. Strain to share his comments at the farm forum, added he emphasized the importance of maintaining coastal ports and waterways and stressed the proposal would create jobs without adding to the deficit in a letter sent Friday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,
He emphasized the importance of using the federal harbor maintenance funds by noting Louisiana is now the fourth highest exporter in the country.
The issue of the increasing burden of regulations was explored by a three-member panel consisting of Don Parrish of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bobby Simoneaux, assistant director of pesticide and environmental programs with the LDAF and Sam Phillips, assistant secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Following a question and answer session and lunch, the keynote speaker was a former chief of staff with the USDA, Randy Russell. He focused on the fate of the 2012 Farm Bill in light of the federal budget deficit and the fact that the U.S. farm economy is at a record level and very strong compared to the rest of the nation’s economy.
Russell acknowledged the financial element in the new Farm Bill is a key issue. Anticipating the Bill may contain less money, Russell expressed concern whether or not there will be sufficient funds to maintain current program.
He was especially concerned about “short changing” agricultural research which he termed “absolutely critical.”
“The day of endless deficits is over,” he said, “and agriculture has to deal with that fact.”
He pointed out that one-half of the USDA’s annual budget is dedicated to the SNAP food stamp program.
Sixty-one percent of the 2002 Farm Bill supported the federal nutrition programs, with that percentage climbing to 78 percent in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Farmers, he indicated, will have to deal with a declining percentage earmarked for agriculture in the 2012 Farm Bill.