Kansas farmers deserve new farm bill, not status quo

American agriculture is at a crossroads—a pressure point. There’s record-level volatility in the farm economy, and farm income is falling at a significant rate. As a Congress, we must provide certainty to those who provide our food, fuel and fibers.

I was troubled to read a report from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, which indicated that the chair of the committee is fine with scrapping negotiations for a new farm bill and continuing with outdated policies from previous farm bills. In that same report, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed his support for that decision.

Our farmers deserve, and even more importantly, they need better. Agriculture is an incredibly difficult industry as farmers and ranchers face challenges from weather events, economic shocks and supply chain shortages. Added to these challenges are inflationary prices.

Inflation hurting sector

This includes soaring input costs up nearly $100 billion since the last farm bill, livestock feed, fertilizer, labor, fuel and more. Looking back to 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that farmers and ranchers would see farm profitability fall by $42 billion nationwide, nearly a 25% drop, compared to 2022. This is unsustainable, and these challenges don’t just impact farmers, but ultimately the American consumers trying to feed their families.

Agriculture is Kansas’ largest economic driver with a total output contribution of $81 billion, supporting more than 250,000 jobs.

Beyond crops and animal production, Kansas agriculture is at the forefront of producing renewable energy, critical research and education and furthering sustainability and conservation practices. Kansas is also a leader in animal health science. As part of the animal health corridor, Manhattan, welcomed the state-of-the-art National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which will help protect our nation’s farmers from severe zoonotic diseases.

Drought and water

Kansas continues to experience weather challenges; most oppressing is the drought. I was recently in Liberal, Kansas, for the 2024 Ogallala Aquifer Summit. This event brought together stakeholders from across the High Plains to discuss water management practices and ask the questions: How do we better preserve our assets, and how do we conserve and utilize more efficiently the conservation research and education programs that are included in the farm bill?

In Kansas, landowners view access to the Ogallala as their lifeblood and the core of their rural communities and are committed to conserving and replenishing the aquifer. I have been working with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) on several important pieces of legislation with the anticipation that this legislation would be considered as part of the farm bill.

Conversations needed

However, the recent announcement that the farm bill has stalled indicates that we’re going to abide by the status quo. No conversations; no additional efforts.

I’ve been an aggie since I came to Congress, including my days in the U.S. House of Representatives, where I chaired the subcommittee on farm commodity programs. I’ve been through numerous farm bills, and they are always hard and usually late. But I have never heard of the leader on the ag committee giving up on the farm bill and telling farmers what you have is what you get.

There are many provisions that impact agriculture that need to be addressed in a new farm bill, and we must deliver a farm bill that provides certainty of risk management programs to help farmers and ranchers weather the storm. We must rework revenue protection programs to provide a critical safety net that works with market challenges and allows farmers, particularly young farmers, to borrow the money to stay in business. If we fail to pass a farm bill, we’re passing up opportunities to grow alternative fuel production through policies that encourage investments in biofuels.

Understanding our competitors

Our global competitors are outspending the United States year after year by billions of dollars in agriculture research. The farm bill would include investments in education and agricultural research, which help provide cutting-edge science and tools to allow farmers and ranchers to do more with less and contribute to our national food security.

The time is now to show leadership for America’s farmers and ranchers. Tough days are ahead of us, but we should not walk away from the process. It’s a dereliction of duty to the farmers and ranchers of America. I hope that we as leaders can get back to the table and produce a farm bill that provides meaningful and real relief for Kansas producers and protects our country from the challenges that we face around the globe.

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U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is a Kansas Republican.