Opinion: U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann says America's future depends on agriculture
Washington, March 21, 2022
The Hutchinson News
By Rep. Tracey Mann (KS-01)
We need good agricultural policies. America’s future depends on it.
Over the past month, I have gone to the House Floor five times to deliver speeches from my Farm Bill Impact Series. With these speeches, I have been raising awareness about some of the Farm Bill’s most important programs and titles and calling on Congress to support the development of this crucial legislation. If America is going to thrive, the people who feed, fuel and clothe Americans must thrive. Our national security depends, in no small part, on food security, and the Farm Bill helps ensure the success of American agriculture. Congress must understand, maintain and reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023 because America’s freedom, national security and self-determination depend on it.
American farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers are my heroes. I came to Congress to defend agriculture and Kansas conservative values because growing up on a farm taught me the most important lessons I’ve ever learned: hard work, self-determination, responsibility, creativity, others before self and prayer. Of all the hardworking, resilient people in our country, agricultural producers face more challenges and uncertainty than most of us can imagine. A late winter snow in Washington, D.C. means a frustrating commute to work. In Kansas, a late winter snow means essential moisture for the soil, better hopes for the spring, profits that might let you buy that tractor you’ve needed for two years now, and if there’s some money left over, an extra birthday present for your daughter in July. Kansas’ own Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a corn field.” In Congress, we deal with the laws of our land, and that’s important, but farmers are the custodians of our land itself.
Agriculture is a risky business, and Mother Nature is a tough business partner. Almost no other American industry faces such volatility from forces like pests, disease, wind, drought and fires – like the ones in Reno County and Paradise in the last few months. Natural disasters are make-or-break situations for the people who ensure that America remains the most food-secure country in the world. That’s why Farm Bill programs like crop insurance and livestock indemnity, for instance, are so critical.
I have heard countless stories from producers all over my district who have used various Farm Bill programs to help them conduct their business. A veterinarian from Ashland told me that during the Starbuck Fire of 2017, to which he was an emergency responder, Clark County alone lost 6,000 to 9,000 head of cattle right at the beginning of calving season. One producer suffered $1.8 million dollars in cattle losses during the disaster. The Livestock Indemnity Program helped producers who lost cattle in this disaster put their livelihoods back together; however, LIP only covered cattle mortality at the time – not severely injured cattle. Rather than watch badly injured cattle get euthanized just to trigger LIP, this veterinarian helped make changes to the program that are still in place today, which provide better protection for producers and their livestock.
A Kansas farmer who understands the importance of crop insurance recently said to me, “The very first year that I was farming, I was not sure that I wanted to take out insurance. My mom convinced me to manage my risk, and so I did. That year was extremely dry in the spring, and my first crop of wheat only made 12 bushels to the acre. If I didn’t have crop insurance, that year would have put me in a deep hole, and I would have missed my equipment payments. I have never forgotten that, and I have carried crop insurance every year since.” These are just two examples of the hundreds of programs that help ensure American farmers can thrive as they serve all of us with their self-sacrificial labor.
American farmers built our history, sustain our present and secure our future. In the early 1930s, America was suffering from food insecurity. That’s when Congress woke up, realized that above all other concerns, we need to eat to survive and drafted the first Farm Bill. Now, nearly one hundred years later, America is the most food secure country in the world because of the strength of our agricultural producers. So, when Congress gets the opportunity to reauthorize the Farm Bill every five years, we need to think carefully and critically about the extent and nature of our investment in agriculture because it’s an investment in both the immediate and the long-term health of our nation. Strong American agriculture is about freedom – that’s why it’s so important to get agriculture policy right. A nation that must rely on another country for its food supply isn’t free.
I always strive to be a staunch advocate and an ambassador for agriculture. That’s why I’m bringing U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn 'GT' Thompson, R-Penn., to the Big First for an agricultural tour this week – to show him the beauty and power of what’s happening in Kansas. In Washington, D.C., as we gear up for the 2023 reauthorization of the Farm Bill, I will continue to stand on the House Floor to share my thoughts and amendments on the legislation. On behalf of my constituents and every American farmer, rancher and agricultural producer, I want to say unequivocally that I will do everything within my power to ensure that the 2023 Farm Bill invests powerfully in agriculture.
America’s future depends on it.