Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Future of the Farm Bill

This week I am going to Phoenix, Arizona to the American Farm Bureau Annual meeting. I am really looking forward to this trip. Yes, partially because it is currently over seventy degrees in Phoenix versus the current below zero here. It is also because I enjoy seeing friends from all over the United States that I only see once a year. However, the main reason I am excited to take part in this meeting is not because of the location or the comradery, it is because I can help influence issues that will shape agriculture.

One of the biggest topics for discussion is the Farm Bill. Each of us know just how important the Farm Bill is and I suspect each of us have different ideas about what should or should not be in it, or even if there should be a Farm Bill. Believe me when I say that this week in Phoenix I will see every angle, every idea and hear much discussion pertaining to the cornucopia of opinions among the many facets of agriculture. I find this discussion fascinating and thought provoking.

We all know the Farm Bill is a massive undertaking and one that is getting harder and harder for agriculture each year. As the number of agriculture savvy representatives and senators get fewer each year we must worker harder to show them the importance of the Farm Bill. In my humble opinion, it is just as important to our national security as any defense spending. I hope I never see the day when we are dependent on foreign food.

That is why it is so important for each one of us who are part of the great network of farmers and ranchers who do feed the nation to get involved and make our voices heard. While I am very active in Farm Bureau and proud of it, it is not the only ag related organization. I think it is very important that we all find an organization that fits our viewpoints and ideas and become involved. Whether it is a general farm group like Farm Bureau or one of the commodity groups joining together with like-minded producers is critical to make sure our voices are heard.

We all know that the percentage of our population who make our livings directly from agriculture is less than 2%, but is really is frightening to me is the growing majority of our population who has no connection to the farm or any idea of where their food comes from. To them the Farm Bill easily can seem like handouts to just a few. That is the idea that is spread by many other organizations with an agenda that is not friendly to agriculture.

What will the Farm Bill look like? That is a good question and one that is hard to answer with so many unknowns now. Each part of agriculture has hot button issues and priorities that must be melded into this comprehensive piece of legislation. It is easy for us to think only of the commodities we grow and not put ourselves in the shoes of other farmers and ranchers in other regions. That is what I really enjoy about being part of Farm Bureau, there is a seat at the table for all producers and all commodities.

As with many things in life, you have a different take on the Farm Bill when you put yourself in the shoes of another producer who is growing a different commodity somewhere else in this great nation. In the end, we are all in this together and we must work out some sort of a Farm Bill that will insure that we have a safety net that will protect the food and fiber that power the rest of our population and that is not easy to do. That is why discussions about the next Farm Bill start almost immediately following the formulation of the current one.

We must all start doing our homework, thinking about what would make the most sense and discussing it with our fellow producers. We must also open discussions with our legislators and start educating those who are not familiar with agriculture. That is the very thing that will happen in Phoenix this week and something I am excited to be a part of.

It is easy to focus on the day to day survival of our farms and ranches and put things like the Farm Bill out of our thoughts. I would also say that this Farm Bill and various other legislation coming at us in the next year or two will have as much to do with the survival of your operation as what you do physically. That is why it is so important to get involved with any of the farm or commodity groups out there. Alone we may not have much of a voice but together we can make a difference and why I am excited about Phoenix.

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