Farm bill takes center stage in 2023

Coffee shop conversations will start on a farm bill, and a key member of the Senate Agriculture Committee believes the legislation needs to work right for those who help feed the world.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, was a member of the House Agriculture Committee that worked on the current 2018 farm bill. A consistent theme he continues to receive from farmers and ranchers is the need for stability as Congress works on the 2023 bill that would start Oct. 1.

“Crop insurance, crop insurance, crop insurance,” he reiterated was what farmers want to maintain.

Producers also need assurance that there is protection from drought and disasters.

Being able to tweak some of the price points would benefit producers, Marshall said. When prices are high as a result of a drought, particularly for Price Loss Coverage, growers can have protection against downside production risks. He also expects continued support for livestock indemnity and forage programs.

“My dad said farming is the biggest gamble there is,” he said. “In Kansas we get to see the second seven plagues of Egypt every year, whether it’s an extra flood or hail, storms or drought.”

That makes crop insurance a pragmatic risk tool for producers to provide stability and it is good for American consumers, who benefit from relatively low food prices in comparison to consumers elsewhere in the world.

“Crop insurance is a big reason why producers can stay in business that otherwise they would literally not be able to plant next year’s crop without it.”

He also noted that his state has also recently marked the one-year anniversary of the Four County Fire in west-central Kansas, which devastated ranchers in four counties. Kansas also has had large-scale wildfires in the past seven years with neighbors in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado. Availability of livestock indemnity programs and forage and pastureland insurance tools are necessary, he said.

“I think we need to learn and figure out how to make the program more efficient,” he said. “It starts with baseline findings and then finding ways to try to make programs more efficient.”


When the 2018 bill was written there was no way to predict a 2022 Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its impact on agriculture. Forty percent of the world’s fertilizer passes through the Black Sea, Marshall said, and over 25% of corn, wheat and other crops from the region helps feed the world. Plus the disruption of the supply chain following the COVID-19 pandemic was also not on anyone’s radar screen.

Marshall said all government programs have a cost and that there has to be a way to fund them. The 2018 farm bill has a projected total cost of $428 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The senator expects a similar size for the 2023 measure.

A hallmark of past farm bills has been the ability to pass one on a bipartisan basis, Marshall said, as he noted that the current law was approved in the Senate by an 85-to-15 margin, a reflection of Sen. Pat Roberts, also a Kansas Republican, who chaired the committee then. The Senate chair now is Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, who worked with Roberts and has pledged to work in a bipartisan manner. Another important figure, he said, is Ranking Member John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican, who also has pledged a bipartisan approach.

Marshall said the 2018 bill has broad support among farm-state legislators and many farm organizations and he expects many of the benchmarks to be retained.

Producers have indicated they like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a way to integrate conservation into their fields. The NRCS touts the assistance program as a way to improve water and air quality, conserve ground and surface water, increase soil health, reduce erosion and sedimentation, improve or create wildlife habitat and mitigation against drought and increased weather volatility.

What farmers and ranchers seek, Marshall says, is greater flexibility too.

“No. 1 is to make sure that we’re just rewarding people who are adapting these new environmentally friendly practices but also toward those who are already doing it.”

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The flexibility also means working with technology as cutting-edge research is demonstrating that precision agriculture can help save moisture and improve soil health, he said.


Marshall said the farm bill will continue to include nutrition safety net programs.

Stabenow wants to make sure the bill has quality nutrition to help particularly the elderly. Stabenow believes vegetable food boxes could be made available to help Medicare patients after they have been released from the hospital.

Marshall, a doctor, cited a study that shows good nutrition can help prevent readmission and could be a wise investment. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, believes the country has an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, particularly among youth, and Marshall agrees.

“He wants to improve the quality of the food that kids are eating at school. That makes sense.”

Marshall notes that Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY, also believes in the importance of making whole milk available in schools so children can have strong teeth and bones.

“We’re going to have a generation of young ladies that are going to get osteoporosis in their 40s because they have not drunk milk,” Marshall said.

A farm bill has to have bipartisan support and that comes from building relationships with members of the committee.


Another overarching theme for 2023 is the impact inflation and higher costs for diesel fuel, fertilizer and interest rates, Marshall is concerned how those costs are impacting beginning farmers and ranchers.

The interest rate was 3% two years ago for a producer to get an operation loan to buy fuel and fertilizer, but heading into 2023 it is likely to be 7% to 8%.

“Inflation is doubly hard on a young farmer-rancher, who has to borrow more money than a more mature producer,” Marshall said. “It’s those items that are going to help young farmers by getting the price of fertilizer, diesel fuel and inflation under control. And by the way, they’re trying to raise a family and feed their own kids.”

Legislation is being written that he hopes will become part of the farm bill that will help lower tariffs for phosphate and potash used for fertilizer production.

He also believes there is bipartisan support for other priorities that include stopping a fentanyl crisis that is hurting rural America, too. Other senators have also talked about the need to slow government spending, loosen burdensome rules and regulations and strive for energy independence. The cost of energy, he said, historically drives inflation.

With the mid-term elections out of the way, he hopes the Biden administration will prioritize agriculture.

Following the November general election, Republicans now control the House and that means Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-PA, will become chairman and David Scott, D-GA, will become vice chair. Scott was the chairman the past two years. Marshall served on the House committee with Thompson and praised him as pragmatic. Thompson has spent the past two years working with Rep. Tracey Mann, R-KS, who represents the First District.

“GT and I are good friends. Tracey and he have a great relationship and I know what that means to Kansas. He (Thompson) absolutely understands the culture of production agriculture—forward and backward.”

Marshall also said it was important for farmers and ranchers to continue to communicate with Congress and staff members and to express ideas and concerns to farm and commodity groups that he says do make a difference.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].