The 117th Congress faces multiple rural and agricultural issues
On Feb. 12, AgriPulse hosted a Facebook live session to delve into rural and agriculture issues facing the 117thCongress.
During the event, AgriPulse Managing Editor Spencer Chase was joined by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations at the Association of Equipment Manufacturing (AEM) Kip Eideberg to discuss the topic.
Setting a bipartisan tone
To begin the discussion, Johnson emphasized it is first important to note how critical it will be to maintain a bipartisan tone in the House Agriculture Committee moving forward.
“This committee has a long-standing tradition of bipartisanship, but I think this time around it might be a little more difficult to maintain,” he said.
While Johnson admitted he is fully dedicated to maintaining this bipartisan tone, he noted he has been joined by many Democratic colleagues who want to use ag policy to address environment, climate and carbon issues.
“There is plenty we can do together on this front, but I really do believe it is going to be more difficult to craft bipartisanship if we focus solely on environmental ag policy in the committee,” said Johnson.
“Therefore, it is critical all of those in ag country reinforce their needs to their members of Congress and other leaders in the industry,” he added. “We really need ag policy to continue being bipartisan. It is what’s best for the whole country.”
Rural and agricultural issues
From here, Johnson explained there are three overarching issues in regard to agriculture he believes will be addressed by the 117th Congress. These include mandatory price reporting, trade and the upcoming farm bill.
“The new farm bill seems like it is an eternity away, but it’s not,” stated Johnson. “In fact, we are actually laying the groundwork for the next bill right now. This year is a key year because members are putting down markers and carving out areas they want to take ownership of, all while crowdsourcing ideas with the ag community. We are trying to ensure the next bill is predictable and won’t be a surprise for the ag community.”
Eideberg agreed market transparency is a huge issue. He also noted rural and agricultural communities are facing lack of reliable high-speed broadband, poor infrastructure, low commodity pricing and mounting bankruptcy.
“Policies need to provide farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to manage risk, open up more markets for U.S. commodities, ensure a fair and transparent regulatory system and acknowledge the ag sector needs to produce more food while taking care of the environment,” said Eideberg. “If we can do all of this, I think we will be well on our way to a healthy and vibrant rural America.”
Spanberger noted rural connectivity is one of her top priorities.
“Producers are the original work from home folks, and the way they conduct most of their business now is through the internet. From updating machinery to communicating with buyers and suppliers. internet is really important for them,” she said.
“Additionally, as a member of the House Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee my goal is to bring producers to the conversations happening in Congress,” Spanberger added. “Frankly, I think there are times Democratic discussion of the larger climate crisis has missed an opportunity to learn about what is happening in the agriculture space and what practices producers are employing across the country to be better stewards of the land.”
An optimistic future
Despite these issues, Johnson, Spanberger and Eideberg express their optimism for the future of rural communities and the agriculture industry.
“I am optimistic, and I believe we will see substantial improvements in all of these areas,” stated Johnson. “While I don’t think there is going to be one Hail Mary touchdown pass, I believe we will see trade expand with Kenya, Japan, Indonesia and Britain. I also think we will see some bipartisan policy on broadband.”
“Gains are painstaking, incremental and slower than they should be, but we will make some,” Johnson continued. “I am dedicated to ensuring the Biden administration continues the progress we have made the past few years. We don’t want to do any backsliding because those gains we made were hard fought.”
Hannah Bugas is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.