During a visit to northwest Kansas on Thursday, U.S. Representative Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said the 2018 federal farm bill is expected to be released in about two weeks.
Marshall said he expects the massive legislation to be “budget-neutral” and provide full funding for crop insurance, price loss coverage and agriculture risk coverage under Title 1 commodities, as well as a significant amount of money for conservation efforts.
“Sometimes constituents complain that this bill, no one ever sees it or has input in it,” Marshall said. “I think this is just the opposite. We’ve had 110 hearings in Congress; I did 10 listening sessions across the state. The committee did six across the nation and I went to three of those. And I have talked to thousands of people impacted by this farm bill and have tried to take all of their input.”
Bipartisan negotiations regarding the farm bill have stalled, however, due to a GOP proposal to expand work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans are seeking to expand the work requirement to adults between the ages of 18 and 65 who don’t have a child under the age of 12 and are not disabled. The proposal calls for requiring eligible SNAP recipients to work or train for work 20 hours each week, Marshall said, adding he was “disheartened” by the democrats’ opposition.
Democrats have opposed the change due to concerns about possibly cutting off support for many food stamp recipients.
“To me, it’s a gift. We’re going to fully fund the training and education,” Marshall said, noting Republicans are not giving up on the proposal. “I think having a job is one of the greatest things of dignity a person could do. I think a job that brings value to yourself, to your family, to your community is vitally important. We want to teach people how to fish as well as give them fish at the same time.”
While President Donald Trump previously had threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Marshall speaks in favor of the trade agreement, saying it is particularly important for Kansas farmers and the state’s aerospace industry. An estimated 38 percent of Kansas exports go to Mexico or Canada, he said.
Earlier this month, Marshall attended the seventh round of NAFTA negotiations in Mexico City, and said negotiations had been lacking advocacy for agriculture exports.
“So the history with NAFTA is it had been really slow going,” he said. “Canada especially was not at the negotiation table. But while I was in Mexico, the week preceding me being in Mexico, it looks like they finally made some significant progress in the NAFTA negotiations.”
Marshall said Canada has been “stronger at the negotiation table” following newly implemented steel and aluminum tariffs. Canada and Mexico for now are exempt from the tariffs.
“They’re both at the negotiation table. President Trump and Congress are both working very hard to get a stronger, better NAFTA agreement, and we think we’re getting closer,” Marshall said.
When asked about issues of school safety and gun control, Marshall discussed a STOP School Violence Act that he co-sponsored and was passed by the House earlier this month. The House also passed a second piece of legislation — the Securing Our Schools Act — that calls for grant funding to allow schools to implement safety features such as panic buttons, locks and video surveillance.
The STOP School Violence Act provides funds for prevention training to help students and staff recognize warning signs of possible violence. Another goal would be development of a mobile smart app for an anonymous tip line that would provide students with an easy way to report alarming or illegal activity, he said.
“So we want to empower local schools, local teachers, local students to help protect themselves. And I would just encourage every school — no one knows your school better than the local people do, so the principals, the teachers, the police officers, the school board need to work together to make sure your school is as secure as it can be,” Marshall said. “And then we’ll leave it up to local school boards whether they think they need metal detectors and guards, and what they’re going to do with teachers and principals as far as arming them or not. I would never want Washington to overstep our bounds and dictate exactly how to handle the situation in Hays, Kansas.”
Marshall also said he favors stronger background checks for gun ownership, and noted the gunman in the Parkland, Fla., incident had been reported to law enforcement, but somehow slipped through the cracks. Marshall said federal law enforcement “dropped the ball on this one,” and also said he believes disturbing social media posts should have been reported.
“The whole emphasis is what can we do to prevent that horrible situation from reoccuring,” Marshall said. “I’m going to add, there’s no perfect bill. I cannot write a bill that can prevent it from happening.”
While Marshall said he supports strengthening background checks for firearm purchases, he opposes any further gun control measures.
“I do think there’s improvement for background checks,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and I’m not interested in changing any kind of laws. I don’t think it solves the problem.”