(Senate - June 27, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 108 (Wednesday, June 27, 2018)]
[Pages S4497-S4498]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                               FARM BILL

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I am here on the Senate floor this 
afternoon to discuss, really, the farm bill but, more importantly, to 
discuss the current state of the farm economy in the place I call home, 
  Every 5 years, we have an opportunity to develop farm policy, and 
this is my fourth time, I would guess, in being involved in farm bill 
discussions and negotiations and the passage of a farm bill. Each farm 
bill is developed at a time at which agriculture faces unique 
challenges, and rural America is in a different circumstance. Yet the 
farm bill is important to us. It is important to Kansans, and it is 
important to Kansans whether they are farmers or not. This is a way in 
which we provide certainty, security--a future--for the places that 
many of us call home.
  The challenges farmers and ranchers face today are significant. They 
are tremendous. The ag economy is struggling, and commodity prices are 
low. Over the course of the 2014 farm bill--the one we are soon to 
replace--farm revenues have fallen by over 50 percent, and there 
continue to be those low commodity prices today.
  In addition to low commodity prices, weather has not been our friend 
in Kansas and in many places across the country, especially in the 
Midwest with its continuing drought. So you end up with the worst of 
circumstances--low commodity prices and not much production.

  It is important that we pass the farm bill. It is important that we 
provide certainty. It is important that we provide a safety net to 
those who struggle every day to feed, clothe, and provide energy to us 
and the rest of the world.
  A primary motivation for which I asked Kansans to represent them here 
in the U.S. Senate and to represent them in Congress is the belief that 
rural America is a place worthy of keeping around for a while longer 
and I hope a long while longer. But when agricultural interests 
struggle and when farmers and ranchers are in difficult circumstances, 
every community across Kansas struggles, and, in fact, the United 
States of America faces tremendous challenges.
  Again, you don't have to be a farmer or rancher in our State, but 
your community's future depends upon whether the farmers and ranchers 
are successful. The extended downturn in the economy has forced more 
and more ag producers to look for off-the-farm income. Many farmers and 
I would say most farmers in Kansas no longer earn a living solely by 
farming. Husband, wife, or both have to find off-the-farm income to 
keep the farm intact.
  The Wall Street Journal indicates that 82 percent of income for U.S. 
farm households is expected to come from jobs off the farm this year. I 
highlight that because it is that struggle that farmers face every 
year, all the time, every day, to keep the farm intact.
  I visit with farmers and ranchers on a regular basis, and it is 
apparent that the stress they are encountering is taking its toll. Many 
farm families are now stretched to the limit of their financial 
  This week, the Senate has the opportunity to consider and to vote for 
legislation that will help address the challenges in rural America. The 
Senate farm bill provides a stable safety net for our farmers and 
ranchers; protects key risk management tools, crop insurance in 
particular; and ensures continued access to credit for producers, 
particularly for our young farmers, which is so important. You cannot 
borrow money from a bank or from a financial institution in the absence 
of the safety net that the farm bill provides. You cannot borrow money 
from a financial institution for a line of credit for your farm to pay 
for the seed or to buy the fuel in the absence of crop insurance that 
protects you in the loss or reduction in production on your farm.
  I appreciate the strong focus in this farm bill on rural development 
and on conservation programs. The farm bill is mostly about SNAP, 
nutrition programs, but the title of the farm bill that is also 
important to our country is title I, which is the farm program, but you 
add to that conservation programs, add to that rural development 
programs, and this is one of the most significant opportunities we have 
to stand strong, side by side with those who live in rural America.
  One of the primary ways that I judge whether farm policy or a farm 
bill is of value is the circumstances in which we allow for young 
farmers, young men and women who grew up on a farm, young people who 
want to be a farmer--do they have the opportunity to return to their 
home community, to their family's farm and become farmers? Is that 
increasing or decreasing? Again, I look at a farm bill and whether it 
is successful by looking at whether we are increasing the number of 
young men and women across Kansas and the United States who return to 
take over family farming and ranching operations.
  The McCurry Bros. Angus farm in Sedgwick, KS, is an example of this 
generational operation that we ought to make sure continues into the 
future. I just saw and learned yesterday that this year the McCurry 
Bros. farm is notably celebrating its 90th anniversary. We need more 
aspects of American life like the McCurry brothers and other farmers 
and ranching operations where sons and daughters work alongside moms 
and dads and grandmothers and grandfathers. In agriculture, land, 
equipment, and livestock are passed down from generation to generation.
  I care about farmers and ranchers because they are the economic 
future of most communities in my State, but I also care about farmers 
and ranchers because it is a way of life that allows us to pass on 
values, morals, integrity, and tradition from one generation to the 
  That opportunity to work side by side with mom and dad and the 
opportunity to work side by side with grandparents is a vanishing thing 
in our country. Agriculture is a place where it still occurs, and it 
has been important in the way in which our country has developed--that 
relationship, that passing of integrity, character, love of life, and 
understanding what is truly valuable in life. Knowing about farming and 
ranching and working with your parents and grandparents changes the way 
you see the world, and in my view, this country needs more of that, not 
  This farm bill is especially important now because of the uncertainty 
that exists related to trade. With low commodity prices and uncertain 
export markets now, providing risk management tools and a strong safety 
net through a farm bill is even more important than ever.
  There are low commodity prices, poor weather, and now the uncertainty 
of where the United States will end up with regard to trade around the 
globe. We should be clear that no farm program safety net can replace 
lost exports and lost markets in agriculture. That is why it is 
critical that we successfully conclude NAFTA renegotiations and avoid a 
multifront trade war that will have a direct economic consequence for 
agriculture in rural Kansas.
  In meetings across Kansas, sometimes I hear: Jerry, let's just forget 
the rest of the world. Let's just take care of ourselves.

[[Page S4498]]

  But if a farmer thinks that or says that or if we think that is 
possible, I would say to those people: Which 48 percent of wheat acres 
in Kansas do you not want to plant and do you not want to harvest? We 
produce more in the United States in agriculture than we can consume, 
and we earn a living by selling that surplus to places around the 
globe. It is income to farmers and ranchers. It is the economic future 
of my State.

  The trade uncertainty has already impacted markets, as countries that 
typically buy American-grown commodities have started to look to other 
suppliers, including to our competitors, especially Argentina and 
Brazil. Given the trade and market uncertainty, it is critical that we 
do our job and pass a farm bill this week as we work toward a finished 
product for the President to sign by the end of September, when the 
current farm bill, the current legislation, expires.
  In that economic development aspect of the farm bill and in that 
rural development aspect of the farm bill, I want to mention a key 
provision of the Senate farm bill. I want to indicate some areas in 
which we can make some improvements, and I would like to do this in a 
highlighted way in a brief manner.
  I want to talk about the importance of broadband to rural States like 
mine. I was excited to see that the fiscal year 2018 omnibus bill 
included a loan and grant program in the United States to bolster 
broadband across our States and bridge the digital divide between urban 
and rural. To ensure effective use of those Federal resources, I 
applaud the Senate farm bill for including critical guardrails to 
prevent duplication and overbuilding of broadband infrastructure for 
new and current USDA programs. We want to make sure those dollars are 
spent where there are no broadband services or where there is very 
  Access to broadband in agriculture is so important. It matters in our 
communities, schools, libraries, hospitals, and businesses, but to 
farmers in today's world, technology is the key, and broadband access 
determines whether your farm equipment can provide you with the latest 
technology and information to more efficiently and effectively and 
hopefully more profitably farm. Access to quality high-speed broadband 
will remain a necessary tool for rural communities to participate in an 
increasingly globalized economy.
  I also want to mention something called ECP. I note my appreciation 
to Chairman Roberts that this bill includes an amendment that I offered 
along with Democratic Members in the Senate, to increase the level of 
support that ranchers would receive under the Emergency Conservation 
Program, ECP.
  In 2016 and 2017, I talked about how weather wasn't our friend, but 
that drought then caused fires to consume thousands of acres of 
grassland in our State, causing great damage to cattle producers. Ten 
thousand miles of fence was destroyed in Clark County, KS, alone. The 
ECP provided assistance to producers but in many cases fell well short 
of providing the level of assistance needed to replace the miles of 
fence that ranchers lost in the fire. It wasn't just fencing that 
ranchers lost; it was their entire herd in many instances.
  We also learned of areas of ECP that ought to be improved as a result 
of those fires. This legislation incorporates those provisions, and I 
am appreciative that is the case.
  Farmers and ranchers have been frustrated by the long delays they 
have encountered in receiving reimbursement for building those fences 
under ECP. In many instances, the ranchers didn't have the money to pay 
for the fencing in the beginning. So this is a significant improvement, 
and I am grateful it is here. When a ranching family has lost 
everything in a fire, including cattle, fence, rangeland, and their 
homes, taking over a year to provide emergency assistance is 
unacceptable. Further, because they lost everything, many of the 
ranchers do not have any collateral necessary to get a loan to cover 
the significant costs of rebuilding fencing.
  I also want to compliment the Senator from South Dakota for 
legislation in an amendment that he has offered regarding livestock 
hauling. We have a significant problem in our ranching world where, in 
many communities, truckers--those who haul cattle from market to 
market, from feed yard, to market, to processing plant--that is an 
important way to earn a living. The Senator from South Dakota, Mr. 
Thune, has offered an additional 150-mile radius exemption for 
agriculture at the end of that drive.
  Cattle are transported across this Nation to Kansas each year, and we 
need to make sure that the hours-of-service rules for those haulers 
allow that to occur safely and humanely, yet allow the transportation 
to continue to occur. I am a cosponsor of legislation to address this 
issue, and I hope that amendment is included in the farm bill.
  Again, I appreciate the chance to have a conversation with my 
colleagues this evening to highlight the importance of this 
legislation. This is about the future of America. It is about the 
future of rural America.
  I always look forward to working on a farm bill that allows us an 
opportunity to enact and improve on policies that help the farmers, 
ranchers, and the rural communities they live in and support. This farm 
bill will provide stable farm policies during a time of high 
uncertainty in agriculture.
  I thank Senator Roberts, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, 
my colleague from Kansas, and I thank the Senator from Michigan, Ms. 
Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the committee, for working together. 
I hope at the end of the day or by the end of this week we will see the 
benefits of their work.
  I look forward to supporting this bill and continuing to work to 
improve the final version as it continues its march through conference 
with the House.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I commend my colleague for his focus 
on the farm bill and thank him for the work we are doing together on 
the Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation Committee. I look forward to continuing that work 
together, which involves so closely and importantly the rule of law.