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SPOTLIGHT
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Farm Bill progress makes a real difference

Published on -5/14/2012, 8:52 AM

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You've long known that I've been a champion for the farmer and rancher in Washington. Agriculture is the back bone of the Kansas economy, and our heritage and values are shaped by our history as stewards of the land.

That's why I hope you'll permit me to thank our Kansas farming community for stepping up to the plate. We passed a Farm Bill in the Senate that not only enables American agriculture to feed a troubled and hungry world, but as importantly, it cuts more than $23 billion in federal spending at a time when our national debt puts our economy in crisis.

You can't escape the dire assessments of our increasing national debt. A great concern to me is the burden we place on our children and grandchildren when federal spending continues unchecked.

Farmers and ranchers share that concern, which is why there was support for policy changes to provide savings. We made the tough choices that allowed us to consolidate, eliminate and streamline programs that were redundant, outdated or just not working.

If every committee were to do the same, we would make a real difference. And, unlike the health care bill or other recent pieces of legislation that were passed behind closed doors, we debated this bill publicly and transparently.

I applaud Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., for listening to all sides and for sharing a commitment to save tax dollars. In the end, the Farm Bill passed out of our committee with strong bipartisan support in a 16-5 vote. We also had an array of support from farm groups including Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Soybean Association, Kansas Corngrowers, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers and Kansas Pork Producers.

This should be a lesson to the Congress that sunshine on the process works.

Our goal was to ensure the farmer and rancher had adequate safety nets in place to help them meet the exploding global demand for food and fiber.

And we did that with the protection of crop insurance, the No. 1 priority of just about anyone we talked with whether it was in Dodge City or Kalamazoo.

Is this bill perfect? No. For example, I personally think we could have found more savings in the nutrition title (without sacrificing help to those in need) and other titles of the bill, but we didn't have enough votes in the committee. I expect debate on the Senate floor to explore options for more spending reductions.

Now the ball is in Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid's, D-Nev., court. I urge him to bring the bill before the full Senate as soon as possible. Our producers need to make critical planning decisions, and we must provide them with stability. I also call on the House Agriculture Committee to do the same.

The current Farm Bill expires in September. We ought to work hard to avoid a controversial extension and pass legislation that contains real reform. It will ensure we can continue to produce safe and affordable food to Americans, provide aid to those in need and do our fair share to help reduce the debt.

Sen. Pat Roberts represents Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

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