NEW ORLEANS, La. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today addressed thousands of farmers and ranchers from across the country at the American Farm Bureau’s 100th annual convention in New Orleans, La.
“I have been in Congress for nearly 40 of those years, as a member of the House and Senate,” said Chairman Roberts. “In Washington, there has been no better partner to work with than the American Farm Bureau Federation.”
“We had a busy year in Washington to close out the 115th Congress, especially in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Not only did the Committee work to conduct hearings and move numerous nominations and get the President’s Team onboard, but we also passed the new Farm Bill without any need for an extension—the first time since 2002.”
President Trump will address the convention on Monday.
The following are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery. Click here to watch his remarks.
Thank you for the invitation to come down to New Orleans this weekend to speak at the 100th annual American Farm Bureau Convention. I truly appreciate you all for taking time away from your operations to be here as champions for agriculture to join in the birthday celebration.
I have been in Congress for nearly 40 of those years, as a member of the House and Senate. In Washington, there has been no better partner to work with than the American Farm Bureau Federation.
We had a busy year in Washington to close out the 115th Congress, especially in the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Not only did the Committee work to conduct hearings and move numerous nominations and get the President’s Team onboard, but we also passed the new Farm Bill without any need for an extension—the first time since 2002.
Almost two years ago, we started the journey toward a new Farm Bill in Manhattan, Kansas by listening directly to the needs of farmers and ranchers.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Ranking Member on the Committee, and I held dozens of hearings and listening sessions around the country and in Washington, DC.
After listening to more than 90 witnesses and receiving thousands of public comments, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 passed, providing much needed certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers across all regions and all commodities.
Back at the very first hearing at Kansas State University, Kansas Farm Bureau’s Amy France testified saying, “the most important USDA program is federal crop insurance,” and “if it were not for federal crop insurance…and similar safety net programs, many of [her] neighbors would no longer be in business.”
Just about every other farm group echoed that exact same sentiment.
And, we heard you all loud and clear—this Farm Bill strengthens and improves the crop insurance program.
In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill provides regulatory certainty, improves conservation programs, assists livestock producers facing the threat of animal disease, and ensures that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively while making sure Americans in the greatest need have enough to eat.
As implementation begins on the 2018 Farm Bill, I look forward to working with Secretary Sonny Perdue and the staff at USDA to ensure that all of these programs are operating as intended for all of you.
A big thank you also to Secretary Perdue for his leadership, along with Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, in turning the tide against over-burdensome government regulations like the former Administration’s Water of the United States rule.
EPA’s announcement last month, which provided a replacement to the Obama Administration “WOTUS” rule, provides more clarity to farmers and ranchers about which waterbodies are subject to Clean Water Act requirements. It also provides more certainty to farmers and ranchers about when Clean Water Act regulations apply—and more importantly, when they do not.
It was long past time to reverse course on the federal overreach that this regulation and others would have imposed on your businesses. And, we are going to continue working to find commonsense approaches to burdensome regulatory requirements in the months ahead.
Another item that remains at the top of the “to-do” list is trade. It has also been said time and again that farmers and ranchers need reliable export markets but must also be reliable suppliers to those same markets.
It is critical that we have swift passage of the United Sates-Mexico-Canada Agreement, also known as USMCA or NAFTA 2.0, when it comes to Congress for a vote.
We need to preserve the economic gains that have been made in international markets for our agriculture commodities by aggressively protecting those markets, as well as pursuing new free trade agreements, starting with Japan.
About a week ago, back again in Manhattan, Kansas, I announced that while I will serve the remainder of my term as a Kansas Senator and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, but I will not seek re-election in 2020 for a fifth Senate term.
I have had the honor and privilege of representing Kansas for 16 years in the House and 22 years thus far in the Senate.
During this time, I’ve had the distinct privilege to fight for farmers, ranchers, and growers as the only member of Congress to serve as Chairman and Ranking Member of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
However, it is what happened during my tenure as Chairman that I believe will have lasting impacts. Simply put, it’s not just having the gavel—it’s what one does with it.
While leading Farm Bill efforts in the House and Senate, I have always been mindful of the vital role that farm families—the men and women who work the land, energize our rural communities, and protect our nation’s values—play in a troubled and hungry world.
And, that is not going to change over the next two years. Together, we still have much to accomplish. And, I intend to sprint to the finish line!
We still have—and we always will have—challenges affecting the daily lives and bottom lines of farmers, ranchers, and growers in Kansas and across the nation.
Despite the partisan division and conflict in Washington, results can be achieved. We’ve demonstrated it before, and that will continue.
Finally, I look forward to having time over the next two years to thank those who have helped me so much over the last four decades.
There are many partners inside and outside of government who have contributed to the policies and vision that have enhanced our nation’s way of life.
As I said last week in my speech announcing my decision not to seek re-election—there are no self-made men or women in public office. It is your friends who make you what you are, and I have had a lot of friends who have helped make a difference.
But, no group has made more of a difference than the American Farm Bureau Federation.
You are truly partners in government. And, the leadership of folks like Zippy Duvall and Dale Moore are the reason that we have made it this far. I can’t tell you the number of times that Senators ask me where Farm Bureau is on an issue that we are discussing. That is a true testament to the good work that the organization does.
When I am out there riding point, I know when I turn around you are always right behind me.
Over the next two years, you can count on me to charge forward and plant the flag on behalf of American farmers and ranchers.
Thank you again for all the support you have given me in my career and inviting me to speak with you today.
Congratulations on your 100th anniversary. I’m certain that with your leadership, we can help make the next 100 years of American Farm Bureau just as successful as the first 100. Thank you and God bless you all.