Q: What’s in store for the new Farm Bill?
A: As a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and a lifelong family farmer, I bring real world experience to the policymaking table on behalf of the farm families who feed and fuel the world. As Congress begins its work on the new Farm Bill, I bring years of legislative expertise to the negotiating table, having helped hammer out the last eight Farm Bills since I was first elected to the U.S. Senate, in addition to my work on farm policy as a member of the House Agriculture Committee. Since 1991, I’ve served on the Senate Agriculture Committee with a couple of brief breaks when committee assignments shuffled a bit in 1995 and again in 2001. Looking ahead, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves in the 118th Congress to update the dozen titles included in the 2018 Farm Bill: Commodities; Conservation; Trade; Nutrition; Credit; Rural Development; Research, Extension, and Related Matters; Forestry; Energy; Horticulture; Crop Insurance; and Miscellaneous. Four of the titles account for the lion’s share of mandatory spending, led by Nutrition (SNAP leads with more than 84 of baseline funding in 2022); Commodities; Crop Insurance; and, Conservation.
In December, the Senate ag committee got a head start on its work to examine the Research title. As the world’s population climbs beyond eight billion people, it’s imperative for policymakers to plan ahead to help secure productivity and sustainability. To meet those needs, we must invest more in agricultural research to help ensure America’s farms and ranches are equipped to feed and fuel the world. Public policy needs to help prime the pump for prosperity and resiliency so that our producers and workers all along the supply chain, from farm to fork and from field to fuel pump, can guarantee food and energy security for America and do our part to erase hunger around the world.
Q: What did you examine at the committee hearing in December?
A: The committee looked under the hood of the nation’s federal agriculture research programs and these tanks are running dangerously low compared to the rest of the world. The United States is behind the curve with regard to investing in agriculture research. It’s imperative to national and food security that we beef up that bucket in the new Farm Bill. For example, in the last two decades China has quintupled its investment in public agriculture research. The United States can’t afford to cede its competitive advantage and that’s why I’m so keen on digging into the details of this title of the Farm Bill. Here we divide research dollars into so-called extramural and intramural research, extension and education activities. For example, land grant universities compete for external funding through formula and competitive grants to conduct research. Iowa State University is one of the 57 original land grant universities eligible to receive federal funds for agricultural research and extension. Agency appropriations provide intramural research for federal scientists within the government. Four agencies conduct USDA’s research, extension and education activities, including: National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Agricultural Research Service; Economic Research Service; and National Agricultural Statistics Service.
During my questioning at the committee hearing, I made clear that one of my top priorities is making sure the United States doesn’t fall further behind in agricultural research. We need to drive innovation with bigger and better investment to combat foreign animal diseases, prepare against agroterrorism, advance veterinary health, and foster solutions for producers to mitigate climate change. For example, Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is instrumental to protecting public health and responding to foreign animal diseases. The Farm Bill has a long to-do list and I’m working to ensure policymakers are educated and on board to strengthen the Research title. Specifically, with regard to climate solutions, I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation called the Biochar Research Network Act to expand research on the carbon-rich material produced from biomass. It would examine how to maximize biochar to improve soil quality while sequestering carbon. With more research, biochar could unlock a viable method of environmental stewardship. Potentially, this paves the way towards a low-cost solution that would help farmers boost their yields, retain moisture and nutrients and help our planet. Earlier this year, I visited a biochar facility in Redfield during my 99 county meetings. In the year ahead, I will continue championing Iowa agriculture, especially during debate on the new Farm Bill.