Hale County farmers travel to Capitol Hill

By Jennifer Dorsett

In late January, Hale County Farm Bureau (CFB) board members and their families took to Capitol Hill to meet lawmakers and share their stories, underscoring the impact a new farm bill could have on their communities.

Bobby Byrd, Hale CFB president, said the group had been planning this visit for two years.

“As a board, we started looking around our county at all the financial problems farmers are having here,” Byrd said. “We just wanted to be able to convey how much it hurt folks like us when Congress took cotton out of the Title I category in the last farm bill.”

Cotton is the main crop in Hale County, and Byrd noted farmers lost possible coverage under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs.

It’s caused concern for area farmers, Hale CFB board member Bryan Curry said.

“Four guys in our area have quit farming this year, and many more are struggling to get refinanced for the next year,” Curry said. “We have to get a better plan together or things are just going to get worse and worse out here.”

The board members also brought their families along, because they felt it was important for legislators to see farm families.

“We did our best to tell the story of West Texas farming in D.C.,” Byrd said. “We felt like one way to do that was for them to see not just us as representatives of an organization, but as the faces of West Texas families who are depending on them to fix things.”

The Hale CFB leaders met with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington and Bill Flores. They also met with numerous staff members of other elected officials who represent Texas, including both the House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture Committees.

The group discussed trade, the next farm bill and cotton’s importance, renewable fuel standards and crop insurance. They also talked about the important local role of programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

Change, Byrd said, begins at the local level and any county Farm Bureau can have an impact.

“These country boards have an opportunity to really be meaningful and make a difference in agriculture,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely been a blessing in my life.”

Curry echoed that sentiment. He serves on Hale CFB’s board of directors because he’s representing all family farms in West Texas, along with his own. Farming is his passion and a way of life for him.

“I’ve been farming since 1994. We just want to preserve our way of life out here,” Curry said. “I want my twin sons to have the opportunity to pursue farming if that’s their interest when they get older. But without some help from the federal government, I don’t know if that will be an option.”

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