It’s time to get a farm bill passed

The Senate is considering legislation on an issue that is critically important to our nation—the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—the farm bill.

The goal, the responsibility, the absolute requirement is to provide farmers, ranchers, growers and everyone within America’s agriculture and food value chain certainty and predictability during these very difficult times. This is paramount to many other concerns.

It is not an exaggeration to say our nation’s food and fiber production capability hang in the balance with what we do here on this legislation. Let us get this done.

Many of my colleagues have introduced legislation over the last year that addresses priorities and stakeholders in their states.

The bill that passed the Agriculture Committee with a strong, bipartisan vote of 20 to 1 in June addresses many of those concerns. In fact, the Ag Committee-passed product includes portions of 65 standalone bills and an additional 73 amendments were adopted in the Committee.

Needless to say, we have worked to include as many priorities for members both on and off the Ag Committee. And, we want to continue working with members to address their concerns. Prepare your amendments and come work with us.

We are endeavoring to craft a farm bill that meets the needs of producers across all regions and all crops. All of agriculture is struggling, not just one or two commodities. We must have a bill that works across our great nation.

And, we must ensure that our voluntary conservation programs are keeping farm land in operation while protecting our agriculture lands, forests and other natural resources.

Let us not forget that in a few short decades, the global population will top 9 billion people. Agriculture production will need to double in the near future to meet demand. Accomplishing this task requires efficiency, not just on the farm and ranch, but also in government.

We must focus on program integrity and commonsense investments to strengthen our nutrition programs and ensure the long-term success of those in need of assistance.

And, with trade and market uncertainty, to say the least, we must provide certainty for our trade promotion and research programs.

Feeding an increasing global population is not simply an agriculture challenge, it is a national security challenge. Show me a country that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos.

This means we need to grow more and raise more with fewer resources. That will take investments in research, new technology, lines of credit and proper risk management. It takes the government providing tools, and then getting out of the producer’s way.

We must make tough choices and be judicious with the scarce resources we have. Through an open and deliberate hearing process over the last 18 months, we have asked tough questions and reexamined programs to determine their effectiveness. We must ensure programs accomplish their fundamental purposes.

Agriculture, and specifically the farm bill, has consistently answered the call to do more with less.

To those who say passing a farm bill in this environment is a daunting task, I say together we can get it done.

As I think about the folks back home, I’d like to point out that wheat harvest is still rolling across Kansas and starting in Nebraska.

Those farmers are facing Mother Nature, the unknown of a thunderstorm or hailstorm that could hit just as they try to harvest their grain.

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We must embrace the attitude of our producers: optimism and ingenuity. A farmer doesn’t plant the seed in the ground without the faith and optimism of harvesting a good crop.

That means—with bipartisan support—we must do our job. We must pass a bill that provides those same men and women the much needed certainty and predictability they deserve.

I appreciate the bipartisan support of those on the Agriculture Committee who voted to report the bill in such a strong manner.

This is not the best possible bill; it is the best bill possible under these circumstances.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on continuing to move this process forward. And, to my partner in this process, Sen. (Debbie) Stabenow, I look forward to working with you toward that goal in the days ahead.

—Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.