1. Trade: US farmers and ranchers are so productive that we must export a quarter to half of our production. Ours is the only nation in the world that can guarantee stable ag exports every year and we must maintain this advantage. Trade agreements are vital to Kansas Agriculture – beef, pork, dairy, wheat, feed grains and oilseeds. However, we must not allow other nations to diminish our production standards, we must be watchful of over-consolidation and we must never forfeit our sovereignty in hasty investor agreements. Fair markets are the key so we must negotiate to mutually bring down tariffs and remove impediments to honorable and fair trade all while ensuring the productivity, profitability and sustainability of domestic production.
2. Water: The most vital resource for Kansas agriculture in the future is our water supply. It is very difficult for ag to compete for water in an open market because consumers are well fed at less than 10% of their income. Therefore, water policy must be designed to continue adequate water allocations to the states # 1 industry. Ag must be at the table as policy vehicles are developed. Kansas ag isn’t and I will change this on day one.
3. Safety Net: In 2012 we had a 60-year drought. Yet net farm income was the second highest on record. Why? Crop Revenue Insurance. We must be vigilant to keep that program intact and ensure from year to year that American farmers can guarantee a stable and affordable domestic food supply. Recently, Crop Insurance has been used as a political football. No more. Domestic Food Production is a National Security issue!
4. Immigration: Agriculture needs a reliable legal work force. A guest worker program designed to fit agriculture production cycles is the solution. I am fully opposed to amnesty. I am fully supportive of supplying Kansas Ag producers with reliable labor resources as needed. Congress has for too long neglected every aspect of immigration and this needs to stop. Like it or not, immigration is a key component to current ag production and it is vital to Kansas farming.
5. Environmental regulations: Clear water and clean air are in the farmer's best interest but these regulations must be reasonable and they must be an asset to ag not a hindrance. Ag interests must be at the table when standards are established and regulators must not be given a blank check to interfere with production. This is where we need a responsible voice in Washington. We need someone who will command respect and get results, someone who genuinely understands the issues and doesn’t argue that all regulations are bad and self-regulation is failsafe. Honest debate is needed and policies must favor the farmer.
6. Technology: Demographers estimate that we will have to feed 2 billion more people by 2050. This will have to be done with limited water and land resources. The answer is technology to increase yields, reduce harvest and storage losses, manage or abate pests and create efficient distribution. The answer is research and technology. Just as the cotton gin, the thresher and the combustion engine revolutionized farming, we must continue using technology to our advantage. I have personally witnessed the benefits of satellite mapping, UAVs, moisture sensors and much more. Good ag policy includes good forward thinking.
Obviously, food is essential and starvation is a problem. It is a national security issue. To reduce hunger, we need small farmers and big farmers, conventional farmers and even organic farmers. We need local producers and imports of non-competitive foods. In other words, there is room for all at the table. I intend to be a strong voice for Kansas Ag at that table!