Q: Why is National Ag Week a good reminder for Americans to appreciate how food gets to their tables?
A: Americans enjoy the most wholesome, affordable and abundant food supply in the world. According to the USDA, the share of disposable income Americans spend on food has fallen from 17.5 percent to 9.6 percent since 1960. American agriculture encompasses a sweeping cross-section of the economy and labor force. National Ag Week is a good time to appreciate the tremendous strides in productivity and how investment in research and development is helping producers grow more with less. The future of American agriculture is bright as farm productivity makes even more advances with better yields and disease-, weed- and drought-resistant crops that help cushion farmers from market volatility and uncertainty. Risk management tools and the federal farm safety net are as important as ever for our nation’s food security and taxpaying public, especially when input costs outpace market prices that many Iowa farmers are enduring for the third year in a row. American agriculture creates new jobs every year, from manufacturing, to packaging, processing, trucking and marketing in hometowns and big cities from coast to coast. Across the country, our nation’s farmers and ranchers do business with seed, fertilizer and implement dealers on Main Street and forge ties with farm-to-table markets, grocers and restaurants that revitalize local economies and empower consumers with more choices to choose where and how they spend their food dollar. If there’s one take-away for Iowans to consider during National Ag Week, I encourage families to give thanks for those whose labors help put food on our tables. Thanks to their stewardship and the blessings of our nation’s bountiful resources, America feeds billions of people in our own communities and around the world, including too many who otherwise would go to bed suffering from the pangs of hunger.
Q: What policies are on the table in Congress that affect American agriculture?
A: Like many sectors of the economy, a broad range of public policy issues impact our nation’s food producers. In addition to the nuts and bolts titles of the Farm Bill – covering commodities, crop insurance, nutrition, trade, energy, farm credit and conservation – monetary policy and other key issues such as taxes, transportation, regulations and immigration also impact prosperity in the farm economy and profitability affecting a farmer’s bottom line. The federal government also must recognize that food security is a matter of national security. So not only is Congress working to ensure countermeasures are in place to protect our food system from agro-terrorism and strengthen biosecurity, it’s also important to consider our national interests when it comes to who controls the food supply. That’s why I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that would give U.S. agriculture – by granting the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services – permanent seats at the table on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The Food Security is National Security Act of 2017 would help ensure American agriculture is represented when the federal government scrutinizes proposals by foreign companies to merge or buy out U.S. food and agriculture companies. Considering the aggressive efforts under way to control agricultural assets on the world stage, I’m working to make sure the United States doesn’t give away the farm by recognizing that U.S. food security is a fundamental national security interest.
Finally, I applaud the good work of those who educate and prepare our next generation of farmers and food producers. Keeping in touch with young leaders in 4-H and FFA gives me perspective on the challenges and opportunities in store for American agriculture. It’s good to know that our state’s agricultural heritage is in good hands and heading in the right direction. Consider the National FFA Organization, operating under federal charter since 1981. The school-based youth organization has more than 14,700 student members in 232 chapters across Iowa whose core mission is to prepare young leaders for careers in agriculture. From occupations in engineering – from agricultural to biofuels, civil, chemical, electrical, industrial and mechanical – to agronomy, animal health, and plant genetics, American agriculture grows good-paying jobs in the U.S. economy. With the right policies in place, families in Rural America can continue working hard to earn their livelihoods and enjoy a way of life passed down from generation to generation. As one of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who choose to live and work in Rural America. Together we can work to fulfill a legacy that helps feed a growing world population and advance pollution-free, clean energy to leave the world even better than we found it for our children and grandchildren.