U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today hosted the committee's Chairwoman, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), for a field hearing on the farm bill. Key witnesses included Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz.
"I am so proud to present the very best of Kansas Agriculture to Chairwoman Stabenow," Roberts said. "We assembled an impressive witness list, starting at the top with Governor Sam Brownback, that will give the Senate a good look at issues facing Kansas farmers and ranchers as we begin debate on the next farm bill."
"It's great to be here in Kansas with all of you. I want to thank Senator Roberts for hosting this important field hearing -- he graciously came out to Michigan for our first field hearing, and I was happy to join him here in Kansas for our second one," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "He and I have worked closely together on a number of issues, and I look forward to continuing that work as we strengthen Farm Bill programs and find common-sense solutions that not only address the needs of our farmers, but that also help put our country on better financial footing for years to come."
The following is the text of Senator Roberts' prepared remarks:
"We're here to talk about the next Farm Bill and how Kansas farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural communities are impacted by policies created in Washington.
"Agriculture is the backbone of our state's economy, providing roughly $15 billion worth of sales according to the most recent census by USDA.
"Each year Kansans plant nearly 23 million acres to a variety of crops like wheat, grain sorghum, corn, sunflowers, cotton and even potatoes.
"While Kansas is home to 2.8 million people, it is also home to over 6 million cattle, 1.8 million hogs and pigs and 120,000 dairy cows.
"As we prepare for the reauthorization of the Farm Bill it is important for us to begin by listening to these producers. Those with dirt under their fingernails provide the best perspective on the effectiveness of government regulations and programs.
"Farm bills are not designed with one state in mind. They are national in scope. Because of that, they must protect producers from all states at a base level.
"This year in Kansas is a case in point of the need for a strong safety net. Kansas producers have experienced floods in the northeast and severe drought in the central and western parts of the state.
"Yesterday I lead a drought tour to see firsthand the effects of Mother Nature. For months I have been working with the state and USDA to find ways to provide necessary and responsible relief for our farmers and ranchers.
"We know that our programs face budget pressure and they should. The federal debt and deficit are out of control. All USDA programs should be under consideration in a budget review and the agriculture committees with the best experience and knowledge of those programs should lead in that effort.
"Agriculture faces a tough challenge ahead. Global population continues to grow at a rapid pace exceeding 9 billion in the next several decades. That's a lot of mouths to feed. At the same time, emerging economies are demanding higher value proteins and grains.
"In order to meet this demand, agriculture must double output.
"Some folks question the need for a Farm Bill with commodity prices where they are today. I don't have to tell this crowd that prices can fall much more quickly than they rise.
"Without an adequate safety net many producers will struggle to secure operating loans and lines of credit to cover input and equipment costs. We need those producers to stay in business if we're going to meet this global challenge and do so in a way that protects our most valuable resource our future generations.
"Thank you to all our witnesses today. I look forward to your testimonies and hearing not only about the Farm Bill but also the impact of federal regulation on your operations.
"So often I hear from producers that the heavy hand of government intervention impacts them more than any program. With this in mind, last week I sent President Obama a list of several proposed regulations put forth by his administration that impact our agriculture industry. I'm hopeful that he will take a close look at them and other regulations and try to insert some Kansas common sense into the administration's actions."