We are looking right down the barrel of an important junction in the history of our nation. I am sure that we all are disgusted with the bi-partisan arguing and inaction in Washington, D.C. I don’t care which side of the aisle you align yourself with, no one can be proud of what is going on, or more accurately, not going on in our nation’s capital. This summer the inaction seems to have gotten to a fever pitch, and I fear it will affect the very bedrock of our nation. That bedrock is agriculture and that means a farm bill needs to get done and needs to get done right now.
A strong agricultural system has always been the key to the success of the United States. Not only can we feed ourselves, but we can also provide food and fiber to a good portion of the world. I would challenge you to go through history and find an example of an enduring world power without a strong agricultural foundation. Food security is the first thing that must be established to ensure that a society will grow and flourish.
The United States has been a prime example of this. For many years we have known that our success lies with the success of our farmers and ranchers and their ability to not only survive but to also increase their productivity as our need for food and fiber increased. This dependence on a strong agricultural system is what led to the development of the farm bill and what has sustained the farm bill no matter which party was in control or what else was going on politically. It has long been understood that a farm bill needs to be a priority. A strong food and fiber production system was undeniably a matter of national security.
I think my friend Ben Boyd, a farmer from Georgia, summed it up best. Ben said, “If you like being dependent on foreign oil, you are going to love being dependent on foreign food.” Just think about how the price of crude oil fluctuates based on the whims of other nations who do not have our best interests in mind. Now think about how it would be if that was your food we were talking about. Maintaining and protecting our farmers and ranchers is of utmost importance.
Want an example of how important the farm bill is? Probably the most important piece in the farm bill is the support of crop insurance. Without subsidized crop insurance most farmers could not afford it. Without crop insurance many of my friends in western Kansas would now be out of business because of the sustained drought. Did they get rich because of this coverage? Absolutely not, but it did allow them to pay their bills and stay in business.
Yes, it allowed them to pay their bills, which also allowed Main Street in many small western Kansas towns to survive. We often worry about the outward migration from rural America; I promise you this would have been even worse in the past few years without crop insurance sustaining many of the farmers and the communities they live in. Crop insurance has become our food safety net.
Crop insurance has also become absolutely critical when we go to secure loans with which to operate. In a time of increased oversight and regulation on our lending partners, crop insurance allows bankers to feel more secure loaning the large amounts of capital it takes to operate a farm or ranch. Without crop insurance, many younger or newer farmers would not be able to obtain the loans they depend on. The next generation of ag producer needs to be encouraged, not discouraged, from picking up the torch and running with it.
Right now Congress is out on recess (seems kind of ironic because in school if we didn’t get our work done, we didn’t get recess), and it is a great time to contact your congressional delegation. Folks, we are all in this together, because if you aren’t producing the food, you are certainly eating it. We all need to reach out to our elected officials and let them know that a farm bill is something that needs to be done now and not later.
Maybe this stalemate is a sign of the times because most people have never had to worry about food or thought about the farmers and ranchers who produce it. It might be that it is a product of the “my way or no way” attitude that permeates our government. Whatever the reason, a farm bill must be crafted and passed. I would ask that you contact your congressional delegation and let them know that passing a farm bill is not a Republican agenda item or a Democratic agenda item; it is a matter of national security for each of us.