Fort Report: Farm Team

Jan 18, 2019
Fort Report

Agriculture is so central to America.  We feed ourselves, we feed the world.  The land has been the source of our vitality.  This is true more than ever, even in our modern age.

This week, I was privileged to be named the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.  I am grateful to be asked to lead in this innovative space of food production, rural development, conservation, nutrition, as well as related authorities critical to food and health safety.

I look to the Nebraska farm community as a model for how to grow our American farm family.  At home, agriculture is essential to our economic well-being, our way of life, our culture, to who we are as a people.  Production agriculture in corn, soybeans, and livestock cover much of our landscape and is an important driver of American export prowess.  Its efficiency, its quality, its ingenuity allows our ag community to provide food security for tens of millions of vulnerable people in America and abroad, while ensuring that all Americans enjoy the lowest per capita grocery bills in the world.

The Nebraska model of agriculture is about more than bulk production.  From the use of advanced robotics to run a dairy operation to enzyme extraction, from better water management to crop yield improvement, our farmers contribute to community well-being and human flourishing.

To look to the future, we look to the past––to see a 21st century agriculture connecting the urban to the rural.  The diversification in our farm family has been so swift and profound that we no longer talk in the language of producers and consumers, but rather in terms of connecting the farmer to the family.  You now meet your farmer at your local farmers market.  That’s a level of intimacy that we have not seen since the early days of farming in America.

Agriculture is becoming a new entrepreneurial space.  We have seen an uptick in those entering the ag field.  Young people have been drawn back to agriculture through exciting new niches, including artisanal foods and crops, organics, and the farm-to-fork movement.  Agricultural studies no longer sit in their own silo.  They are inextricably intertwined with environmental science, conservation, and international development.  Restaurants that focus on locally-sourced foods are also growing in popularity, and with that trend comes an increased interest in the foods of indigenous peoples.

Still, the heart of Nebraska and the heart of America is the traditional large-scale American farm.  It is critical that public policy enables farmers to mitigate risk, manage conservation, and market their products.  Public policy will also assist beginning farmers and ranchers, as the older generation passes on their know-how, their operation, and their land.  Critical to this effort is lowering the costs of the farm operation.  Technology can help.  Renewable energy can help.  A new health care construct for Rural America can also help. 

To be able to lead in this critical area is a tremendous honor.  As I was being considered for this leadership position, I recalled a time when I was a boy.  My grandfather, who was a county ag extension agent, asked me what I wanted to do with my life:

I said, ‘Papa, I want to be a farmer.'