Weekly Columns

Marking One-Year of the Farm Bill

Often, after I’m introduced at events, I’ll joke that I’d rather be identified as an optometrist than a senator.

Given Congress’ low approval rating, many of my colleagues probably share my tongue-in-cheek preference of being identified by a previous profession instead of their current one.

It’s not hard to see why most Americans have a very negative view of Washington. Partisan fights are the norm. Advocates of the most extreme positions get the spotlight and the attention is always focused on drama and gridlock. Unfortunately, these characterizations dismiss all that Congress has accomplished this past year.

In the 116th session of Congress, the Senate has, among other things, confirmed over 100 federal judges, repealed costly Obamacare taxes and increased security at the border. We’ve passed laws vital to the future of our nation, including measures to secure our elections, and we’ve tackled smaller concerns, such as those annoying robocalls that frustrate Americans on a daily basis.

Along with our aggressive legislative agenda, Congress is also working to ensure recent landmark laws are being properly implemented. The 2018 Farm Bill—which became law just over a year ago—sits at the top of that list.  

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I can attest to how much work went into passing the 2018 Farm Bill. The reality of agriculture policy is that our divisions often don’t fall along partisan lines, rather they tend to occur between regions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for agricultural policy across a country as large and diverse as the United States. Agriculture in western, northeastern and coastal states differ from both the South and the Midwest, which in turn, have needs that vary. What works for farmers in Iowa often times does not work for farmers in Arkansas and vice-versa. 

To pass a farm bill that was workable for the entire nation, members of Congress had to put aside our differences to ensure the needs of each region were met. It was a fine line to walk, but we managed to find a common ground among the many distinct demands—largely due to the leadership of Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The challenges facing our farmers and ranchers made passing the farm bill in a timely manner imperative. Agricultural producers have been facing intense pressure: farm bankruptcies are up, financing has become more expensive, commodity prices have dropped and the trade outlook has been uncertain to say the least. 

In light of the adversity facing agriculture today and in recent years, producers needed assurances that Washington will enact policies that provide a path toward a secure future for their operations and livelihoods. The 2018 Farm Bill brought some much-needed stability by reauthorizing and improving key risk management tools, enhancing economic development programs, protecting conservation opportunities and providing regulatory certainty. While significant challenges remain, we have seen some confidence return to rural America in the year since the 2018 Farm Bill became law.

It took a heavy lift to get this bill passed through two chambers with very diverse views and then signed into law by the president. That accomplishment set an example of what we can achieve when we work together, and also established a clear precedent to follow during implementation. It is my hope the 2018 Farm Bill will serve as a blueprint for more bipartisan successes in 2020 and beyond.