Editorial note: The 2018 Farm Bill, as every other before it, is a complicated and bulky piece of legislation. It affects every person in America who eats. Because of this, the Great Bend Tribune travelled to Haven for this last of ten stops US Rep Roger Marshall made as he sought feedback from constituents of the Big First. To do the topic justice, throughout the week, we will spotlight some of the insights and concerns shared Saturday morning by the people who attended Marshall’s 2018 Farm Bill Listening Tour.
HAVEN — Early Saturday morning, Congressman Roger Marshall conducted the tenth and final stop on his 2018 Farm Bill Listening Tour in the community of Haven. The tour started Friday, Aug. 18, and has been attended by more than 400 constituents overall. Marshall has shared the microphone with more than 100 people, he said, who have shared their experiences with several agricultural programs that could be impacted as Congress returns from recess in September.
Every five years, the Congress writes a new farm bill, Marshall, explained.
“I’m here today to listen to you about what is working with the current farm bill and what isn’t working, and what you think we can do to improve that farm bill,” he said. “One of the top comments I’ve heard from constituents is they would like to see legislation done in the light of day. That’s exactly what we’re doing here today.”
Attendees were encouraged to fill out cards that included a space to share what they would like to ask Marshall. After his opening remarks, he offered the microphone to each person in turn to share their thoughts and concerns with him and the rest of the constituents gathered there. After they spoke, he asked them questions to help clarify their points.
Participants included representatives from the Kansas Corn Growers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, Cheney Lake Watershed, RESULTS (a grassroots organization that works to fight poverty), Reno County Farm Bureau, a wheat farmer, two representatives from a Wichita-based immigration advocacy group, a Reno County agricultural real estate broker, and a retired Haven resident.
After each person was given an opportunity to speak, Marshall shared what he’d gleaned from all ten stops.
“Number one, it’s tough times, and this is the third tough year in agriculture in a row,” he said. “It’s really tough, even more so than I think some of the bankers would let us know.”
Number two, the biggest concern on the farm bill is crop insurance.
“What I’ve heard over and over again is how important crop insurance is, and it’s the number one concern we keep together on the farm bill,” he said. “Farming is one of the riskiest, high tech, most intricate, complicated businesses out there. Without crop insurance many people would be out of business, and it doesn’t protect just the producer. It protects your bank loan, and it’s almost impossible to get a bank loan without crop insurance. It protects downtown Haven, Kansas. it protects the Coop, and it protects Main Street, what’s left of it in rural Kansas. I get that message loud and clear.”
Third, people have shared concern about farm programs like Title 1 funding, the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs. “What I’ve heard over and over again, that people want more flexibility and they want it to be simpler. They want to be able to float back and forth a little bit and not make it such a guessing game.”
Beyond that, there’s an equal division about Conservation Reserve program (CRP) issues, lots of good comments about Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) conservation program, lots of good uses for Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans, and everywhere I’ve went, FSA guaranteed loans have been working well in conjunction with crop insurance as risk management tools.
Next in line of concern was nutrition.
“It’s hard to imagine that rural America has some of the higher incidences of nutrition issues,” he said. “It’s important to fund SNAP as efficiently as possible, but also measure success by moving people from welfare to work by providing people with good solid jobs so they don’t need the SNAP benefits.”
Trade a high priority
Finally, Marshall shared his thoughts on the economy and trade.
“This administration is doing some great things for trade that he is not getting credit for,” he said. Those things include opening up new markets for Kansas products to start going to. “We’ve opened up beef into China, we’ve opened up poultry into South Korea, we’ve opened up rice into Columbia, and we’ve opened up pork into Argentina.”
He praised US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for his work so far on trade and NAFTA. With one of three rounds of negotiations completed, and the remaining scheduled to take place in September, he stressed the importance of getting NAFTA wrapped up. Namely, until it is done, President Donald Trump can’t move forward on bilateral agreements elsewhere as he’s promised to do, Marshall said.
There is no bilateral agreement with Japan right now on beef, he said. Tariffs on beef in Japan have gone up from 38 percent to 50 percent, but the tariff on Australian beef in Japan is just 17 percent.
He echoed the sentiments of Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, when he spoke at a recent Great Bend Chamber of Commerce coffee that the goal of both Congressional Ag Committees is to complete the 2018 Farm Bill this fall, or by winter at the latest.
“Certainly everyday I’m surprised in Washington by the obstructionist attitudes, but if there is one bill that can be done on a bipartisan basis, this is it,” he said.