Congressman McIntyre’s Farm and Rural Policy Agenda
Having been born and raised in a rural county in Southeastern North Carolina, I understand how important our farm communities are to our state, our nation, and the world. After first being elected to Congress, I sought a seat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and I now serve as the second-ranking Democrat of the Committee. As North Carolina’s most senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am honored to be able to address our state and nation's farming and rural development needs.
North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District is the most productive agricultural district in the state with over $2.5 billion worth of agricultural products sold each year. Additionally, our region is a national leader in pork, poultry and tobacco production and is home to a great diversity of agricultural endeavors. From sweet potatoes and melons to soybeans and grains, southeastern North Carolina supports a wide variety of plants and fiber that fuel the state economy.
In concert with my 7th District Agricultural Advisory Committee and key agricultural leaders in North Carolina, I have developed the following 12-point plan to ensure that our state continues to be a leader in agricultural production.
Strong Farmers’ Safety Net
Farming is ingrained in the very fabric and history of Southeastern North Carolina. Crops like tobacco, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and blueberries team up with livestock operations such as poultry, turkeys, and hogs to make North Carolina a powerhouse of agriculture. The industry brings millions in revenue to the state and supports countless families.
I have long supported policies that create a fair and effective safety net for American farmers and worked closely with my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to craft the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. I am continuing to work on passage of a much needed 2013 Farm Bill. Farmers are always worried about weather, pests, disease, and prices, so it is essential that we maintain a strong safety net of crop insurance, countercyclical payments, and strong commodity markets.
Effective Crop Insurance Program
The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) at the United States Department of Agriculture promotes the economic stability of agriculture through a sound system of crop insurance and providing the means for the research and experience helpful in devising and establishing such insurance. Farmers deserve the same access to insurance products that all Americans are able to access.
Without crop insurance, many producers would be unable to access the operating loans necessary to put their crops in the ground and manage them throughout the growing season. I will fight any effort to harm the crop insurance program and will continue to stand with the farmers of southeastern North Carolina as we work to keep the crop insurance program strong.
Keep Tobacco Strong
In support of our tobacco producers in Eastern North Carolina, I introduced landmark legislation that is now law called the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act. The law bought out the tobacco program and continues to compensate tobacco quota owners and growers. This legislation, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2004, ended the restrictive and burdensome quota system and compensated farmers for their shares in the program. By ending the quota system farmers were given more freedom to plant and contract with companies to deliver their products to the market.
I will continue to work to ensure that the tobacco buyout program delivers the payments on time and in a fair and equitable manner that the quota holders deserve.
I will also work to ensure that the United States Trade Representative be a partner – not an opponent – to the tobacco industry in its negotiations with potential export markets. This includes ensuring that the USTR not carve out tobacco in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ensuring that key industry panels such as the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Tobacco, Cotton and Peanuts are adequately represented by tobacco industry members.
Let Livestock Thrive
I worked with my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to ensure that the 2008 Farm Bill authorized a Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to provide benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather that occurred due to hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat, and extreme cold. This program works and must be reauthorized in the coming farm bill so that this backstop remains in place for farmers who fall victim to nature’s harshest blows.
Additionally, I support efforts to reform the Livestock Gross Margin Insurance program at the USDA's Risk Management Agency to make it work for producers in North Carolina. This program can provide a needed risk mitigation tool to producers in our region if crafted in a sensible manner so that it works for producers in all parts of the country.
Access to Markets
The agricultural community is the originator of the derivatives contract. Farmers, more than most, rely on the sequencing of events as a part of their business. The derived value from their labor is paid out in the future, and unsurprisingly, their industry was at the forefront in utilizing futures contracts as a way to mitigate the risks of their practices. Farmers hedge responsibly, with purpose, and do so using sound information based on years of practice and evidence from the market. They, as a group, are the gold-plated example of how financial tools should be used responsibly and provide the greatest example for why financial tools are so necessary in the modern economy.
The hard lessons of the financial crisis are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, and it is now more important than ever that financial regulators take prudent measures to oversee the American financial system and protect the innocent from the harm caused by a few. I will continue to work to find sensible solutions to the problems associated with the actions of overzealous investors that threaten the financial security of honest Americans while protecting the financial products farmers use to operate.
Keeping Corn Affordable
Renewable energy is a key component of any worthwhile effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and achieve energy security in the United States. While I am a strong proponent of investments in advanced biofuel technologies that source feedstock from materials that do not compete with the food supply, I believe that the strain placed on the supply of corn from corn based ethanol has unfairly driven up prices for a commodity that is relied upon by the livestock producers in Eastern North Carolina. This technology has matured and can stand on its own, and the added incentives from federal subsidies have the affect of putting too much corn into the production of energy. This hurts the agricultural economy and does not get us any closer to achieving energy independence because of the unsustainable nature of increasing reliance on corn based ethanol. I will work to ensure that additional corn based ethanol subsidies are not enacted into law and that existing subsidies for the industry are removed.
In Congress I worked to ensure that the main ethanol subsidy – the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) – expired at the end of 2011 and I will continue to fight against efforts to reinstitute this wasteful policy.
Get Rid of Burdensome Regulations on the Farm
In Congress I have been conscientious of the need for effective and reasonable environmental policies that keep our air clean and our water safe. The agricultural community has long been a leader in conservation and environmental safety practices but has unfairly been singled out in recent years as an area of environmental concern by some in Washington. I believe that farmers should get the credit that they deserve for the work that they do to keep our environment healthy and should not be the target of unfair environmental criticism.
I have worked in Congress to ensure that the EPA does not implement expensive regulations on farms relating to Farm Dust and have cosponsored legislation that passed through the House of Representatives that would prevent the treatment of farm dust as particulate matter regulated by the Clean Air Act. This out of touch proposal needs to be defeated and I will continue to ensure that farms are able to continue to provide the world with food and fiber without unnecessary regulatory burdens.
Strengthen Rural North Carolina
I have long advocated for rural economic development and have been a leader in promoting economic development policies that spur growth and opportunity in rural communities. In the most recent Farm Bill I worked with my colleagues on the Committee to craft the Rural Development title of the law which has made possible thousands of investments in rural North Carolina through the Rural Business Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Housing Service.
Citizens in rural places experience great difficulty in accessing the infrastructure and amenities that are available in our urban centers. The modern economy requires that businesses be able to access broadband services to connect to the global marketplace, electric power to run equipment, and clean water to support communities that supply the labor and skills needed for commerce. Rural Americans deserve the attention of their government and need an agency that directly focuses on addressing rural problems.
Those that work at USDA Rural Development live in the communities that they serve and are intimately aware of what rural means and what needs to be done to ensure that rural America remains a place that families choose to live and businesses are able to grow. To falter in our efforts to develop the rural economy would be a great disservice to the 20% of the US population that lives in a rural community, not just in North Carolina but throughout the country. The costs associated with bringing needed services to rural America can be high. Utility companies and telecommunications providers must incur higher capital costs to make the investments necessary to provide services to rural Americans on par with those that we take for granted in urban centers. However, rural communities and businesses have continually shown us that they can and will responsibly take on these investments when financing for such endeavors is available.
I have also been a strong advocate for the promotion of renewable energy in our rural communities. In particular, I have pushed for increased investments in second and third generation biofuels that reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil while sourcing feedstocks that do not compete with the food supply. This has involved pushing our renewable energy sector supports away from corn based ethanol and into advanced renewable technologies that utilize alternative feedstocks like animal fat, agricultural byproducts, and methane gas from manure.
Fairness for Producers and Processors
The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced a proposed rule for the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 that will go too far and unnecessarily harm packers, processors, and integrators. Livestock growers deserve a fair shake in Eastern North Carolina, but the current policy recommended by this Administration would open the industry to costly and avoidable legal liability that could increase the costs of pork and poultry products to consumers and deliver irreparable harm to the industry.
I have called on Secretary Vilsack for an economic analysis of the impacts of the proposed GIPSA rule so that the Agriculture Committee can properly assess the merits and impacts of the proposed administration rule. Such sweeping changes to long standing policies of the Packers and Stockyards Act cannot and must not be promulgated without a full economic analysis and proper justification for the rule changes.
Research and Extension
By 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, 34 percent higher than today. If the United States is to continue to feed the world, we must continue to work to advance the yields of our crops and the efficiency of our livestock production. Our nation has made a commitment to advance agricultural science and help our farmers deal with the pests and pathogens that threaten our production. I will work to fulfill this commitment so that our Nation can sustain and improve an agricultural system that is a model for the world.
As one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the country, I have fought hard for our specialty crops to receive the attention they deserve in our agricultural policies. I cosponsored the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act which is now law that established block grants for each State to enhance specialty crop competitiveness. In the most recent Farm Bill, I and my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee were able to, for the first time ever, emphasize fruits and vegetables with critical funding in Title X of the Farm Bill.