The 2023 farm bill: Protecting US agriculture’s productivity, profitability and competitiveness
Agriculture is the beating heart of the American economy and the lifeblood of our rural main streets in Iowa. From hog farmers in Sioux County to corn growers in Washington County, farming runs through our veins in rural America — and federal policy must complement our proud traditions; not inhibit our productivity. For our country to remain the breadbasket of the world, we must pass a strong farm bill that protects the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of American farmers, producers and our agricultural community.
In basic economic terms, productivity measures the relationship between input and output. As technology has advanced and farming practices have evolved, American farmers have grown more food with fewer resources, and in turn, have helped to alleviate global food insecurity and cement America’s status as the world’s agricultural powerhouse. However, amid rising energy costs and record inflation fueled by trillions in wasteful government spending, the cost of basic inputs like feed, seed and fertilizer have skyrocketed, leaving our farmers and their families in a precarious economic situation. The current state of our economy underscores the need to protect vital programs in the farm bill like access to credit and funding for agricultural research and development. For example, credit accessibility at local banks and other financial institutions allows our farmers to purchase new equipment and precision agriculture technologies to remain productive even when economic conditions sour. At the same time, continued investment in research and development at our nation’s top academic institutions not only supports the livelihoods of American producers, but also fuels scientific breakthroughs that benefit agriculture.
Profitability is another — if not the most — important factor for American farmers. In today’s volatile world, our agricultural community needs certainty and predictability to be profitable. When planning for the next planting season and allocating the necessary capital to operate their farms, farmers must know that, during tough times, crop insurance will remain accessible and affordable. In rural communities, crop insurance is a vital tool for our producers to hedge against poor crop yields and inadequate returns. Crop insurance also protects farmers from the perils of droughts, derechos, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters that can devastate family farms. In this year’s farm bill, we will work to create a robust safety net and defend crop insurance so that our farmers can remain profitable even when Mother Nature strikes.
Profitability also extends to our biofuel producers. Iowa is home to 42 of the nation’s 201 ethanol plants and 11 of our 72 biodiesel facilities. Ethanol and biodiesel production not only keeps prices down at the pump and lowers carbon emissions but is also a major economic engine for our state, supporting 57,000 jobs and generating roughly $7.2 billion to Iowa’s Gross Domestic Product every year. As such, we are committed to maintaining protections for biofuels production while encouraging construction of new ethanol and biodiesel facilities nationwide. By expanding biofuels production, Iowa ethanol and biodiesel can make America energy independent again, lower gas prices for American families, and end our reliance on dirty foreign oil for our energy needs.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the farm bill also presents a unique opportunity to provide American farmers and producers with the necessary resources to outcompete foreign agriculture. In Iowa alone, 415,000 jobs are supported by trade in our state, and in 2018, Iowa exported roughly $14.4 billion in goods and services, cementing our status as the second largest exporter of agricultural product in the United States. Therefore, negotiating strong trade agreements and expanding access to foreign markets are critical to our economic competitiveness and rural vitality. In the farm bill, we are working to double funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), which both promote American agricultural products abroad and help domestic producers receive top dollar for their goods.
Voluntary conservation practices are another avenue through which American farmers can outcompete foreign agriculture. Countries like China are aggressively subsidizing conservation programs for their farmers, and it is crucial that the United States responds appropriately. For instance, we need to make the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) — which is administered by local Farm Service Agencies (FSAs) — more flexible for our farmers so that they can continue to use their private land for productive farming activities while practicing sound conservation. We also need to provide local FSAs with greater latitude to appropriate CRP funds and determine how decommissioned land can be most effectively used in the meantime. These are both important priorities that must be included in the farm bill to protect the livelihoods of our farmers and the health of our environment.
The reauthorization of the farm bill has an important role to play in protecting our family farmers and rural communities. Between out-of-touch attacks on agriculture by unelected bureaucrats to the growing influence of foreign interests, we are committed to passing a strong farm bill that supports our farmers, promotes international trade, and creates a reliable safety net for our producers. In our Republican majority, American farmers and producers will always have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Congress. The farm bill reflects this ironclad commitment.
Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th District and is a member of the Agriculture Committee. Miller-Meeks represents Iowa’s 2nd District.
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