Farmers receive long overdue certainty in bipartisan Senate farm bill
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Having conducted a thorough review of each title of the farm bill, we have a good idea of where we can make commonsense reforms, fix problems, improve efficiency, and craft a bill that works for consumers and producers.

This review is necessary, and I am proud of the bipartisan work the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee has done to write a new farm bill.

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As chairman, I have said that this farm bill will not represent radical change. Our goals are to provide certainty through legislation that works for consumers and producers in all regions of the country.

This is important because times have been tough in farm country these last few years. Where the overall U.S. economy is recovering, in great part thanks to tax reform, farmers and ranchers have had a hard go of it due to droughts, floods, storms and fires. They have had to deal with low prices and surpluses. They cannot predict our evolving trade policies and are unsure of access to foreign markets.

Over the past five years, prices for many of our major commodities have dropped by over 40 percent. As a result, net farm income is expected to decline by 52 percent.

You can look at the numbers, read media reporting, listen to the producer organizations, conservation groups, partisan think tanks, and academics to think you know the best approach for this year’s farm bill.

But to know that farmers and ranchers really need is certainty, you just need to read this, a letter from a farmer in Minneapolis, Kan.:

“I am engaged in agriculture. I have worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to be able to farm and ranch. Every year the margins are tighter and the profits are smaller and the regulations are harder and more costly to comply with. We sincerely and desperately need relief before there are no farmers left. We, as farmers don’t have the time or expertise to know all the ins and outs of the law that is where you need to step in and defend us. We are a fading population an endangered species if you will. Help is needed.”

I have worked on many farm bills and this one is no different. We will have our share of regional fights, partisan squabbles, and deep divisions over fundamental programs for nutrition and our critical risk management tools for producers. The dysfunction and partisanship displayed by Congresses considering past farm bills must not take place again. When we debated the last farm bill, it was a time of high prices. We don’t have that luxury today. Instead, we have a large portion of our economy left behind and in need of a partner in the federal government to steady the course.

We will not get a perfect bill. We will not meet the demands of those who want to slash the SNAP program. We will not make radical spending cuts within our farm programs. But, we will make progress, and that is more than our producers have seen in years.

We must provide the certainty and continuity rural America needs so they may continue to grow the food and fiber to feed and clothe a troubled and hungry world.

In the Senate, that takes 60 votes. It takes Democrats, Republicans, conservatives and liberals because our farmers, ranchers, rural communities and consumers need certainty now. 

Roberts is the first member of Congress in modern committee history to serve as chairman of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. He is serving in his second congress as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.