by Zack Pistora
As we head into the voting booths this November, one issue that may make a difference to many of us in farm country is who can help pass a good farm bill. With its direct effect upon commodity payments, crop insurance, food assistance, conservation and local foods programs, research and rural development funds, and more, the Farm Bill holds a great significance to our nation’s farmers, and many of us here in Kansas.
With this in mind, seven Kansans and I with the Kansas Farmers Union were able to head to the heart of the Farm bill policy discussion, Washington D.C., to visit with the Kansas delegation on Capitol Hill in early September.
Our stellar team represented a diverse look at the Farm Bill, as we represent a mix of urban and rural, large and small-sized farm operations, with conventional and specialty crops. Our small group was unique in that it was comprised of men and women, young and older farmers, with various racial, geographical, and occupational makeups. Our Kansas Farmers Union team included: Richard Boxum, Downs; Tom Buller, Lawrence; Tom Giessel, Larned; Yvonne Guy, Topeka; Jeff Kindel, Concordia; Keisha McClish Coats, Emporia; Donna Pearson McClish, Wichita; and myself.
We joined roughly 350 farmers from across the country for this year’s National Farmers Union Fly-In for what was said to be the largest Farmers Union Fly-In in recent memory. For many of us, we were proud to say it was our first time to come to D.C. to meet with our state’s federal legislators. Together, we offered our support for a good bipartisan Farm Bill; for better trade deals to help our independent, family farmers; and for the continuation of important conservation programs.
As our team of Kansas farmers visited our Kansas Congressional offices, we brought up several topics, which included support for voluntary conservation programs, like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP); programs that help both sustainable and local food systems and beginning and disadvantaged farmers; and reforming farm payments so that real farmers get assistance they need, not the rich corporate farmers or non-farmer Wall-Street investors. We also discussed the vital impact of trade deals as well as mental health policy on farmers.
We were fortunate to meet with three of the six Kansas senators and congressional representatives and enjoyed meeting many of the lead Kansas staffers on agriculture policy.
The 2018 KFU Fly-In Team and Congressman Roger Marshall (KS-1). Our delegation included: back row Richard Boxum, Jeff Kindel, Tom Buller, Rep. Roger Marshall, and Zack Pistoria, and front row Keisha McClish Couts, Donna Pearson McClish, Yvonne Guy, and Tom Giessel.
Freshman Representative Roger Marshall, of first district of Kansas, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee and the Farm Bill Conference Committee, talked with our group for 30 minutes. As our Kansas team expressed our views on the Farm Bill, Representative Marshall agreed with us on the significance of voluntary conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is utilized by almost 500 Kansas farmers encompassing over a million acres. Congressman Marshall also heard our plea to uphold many of the local foods programs that have been helping Kansas farmers gain technical assistance and funding mechanisms to distribute their products. Overall, we encouraged Congressman Marshall and the other
Kansas Republican House members to take Senator Pat Roberts’ lead in crafting a much better, bipartisan Senate version of the Farm bill.
Being in Washington D.C. with the Farmers Union gave me a sense of how important the Farm Bill is and how it impacts people across the country. It was good to hear members of Congress recognize this significance, and all the Congressional members we talked to vowed to get the Farm Bill done as quickly as possible to help guarantee certainty and stability to our farmers and rural America economy.
However, farmers know that actions speak louder than words, and until the Farm Bill is passed and critical programs are fully funded and implemented, myself and farmers everywhere won’t back down on pressing Congress to get a good Farm Bill passed.