Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Tracey Mann delivered another installment of his Farm Bill Impact Series on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, showcasing the state of agriculture.
Click here to watch Rep. Mann’s full remarks on the House Floor. Read the full transcript of his remarks on the House Floor below.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today to deliver the next installment of my Farm Bill Impact Series – The State of Agriculture. We’re at the end of the first quarter, National Ag Month just ended, and as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Farm Bill, we should examine the state of agriculture.
Agriculture is not just a business; it’s a rich heritage and a lifestyle. Sadly, the distance from farm to fork has never been greater, and there are fewer legislators than ever before who have experience on the farm. Since Congress will reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023, I’m standing here today to remind Congress that for this legislation to be effective in ensuring the food security (and therefore national security) of our nation, we need to get in the field and consider the perspectives of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers.
Last month, House Agriculture Committee Republican Leader GT Thompson and I did just that on a tour of my district. We went to farms, we toured facilities, we ate at dinner tables, and we listened. We did it because hearing from producers is crucial to legislating well on matters that concern their livelihoods. Today, I will report to Congress on what they have been telling me about the economic, human, and natural resources surrounding their work, and what producers believe to be the state of agriculture.
A farmer or rancher’s economic health depends on things like cash and assets on hand, protections against the government taxing the farm at transfer or death, and well-crafted Farm Bill programs like crop insurance.
You don’t have to look far to know that producers are facing the highest input prices in 40 years. Fertilizer is four to five times higher than it was this time last year if you can even get it. Equipment is back-ordered for 6-8 months. Parts are at least double the cost. On our trip, Republican Leader Thompson and I hosted a roundtable with Kansas commodity groups, and all of them told me that if we cannot get input prices and inflation under control, today’s farm and tomorrow’s crop will be in a much worse condition this time next year.
The day-to-day trials of operating a successful farm, ranch, or agribusiness are challenging enough without worrying about these skyrocketing prices. Now, President Biden’s budget proposal threatens the stepped-up basis and imposes capital gains taxes on farms or ranches that have been held in the family for 90 years or more. This new farm killer tax would impose hundreds of thousands of dollars in new capital gains taxes on hardworking Americans and jeopardize family-owned businesses.
The one saving grace for most farmers is that the 2018 Farm Bill protected and strengthened their opportunity to utilize crop insurance programs, even when conditions are dire. Largely, farmers want to keep crop insurance in place in the 2023 Farm Bill. One Kansas farmer even told us that Congress needs to “use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, as we refine crop insurance.”
Agriculture’s human resources include labor on the farm and employees at the local Farm Service Agency office. On the farm, folks are hurting workers. We visited one of the first feed yards in the state, and the family owners haven’t seen a labor shortage with looming retirements this bad since before the feed yard’s inception in 1951. Another co-op owner told us that their workforce is down 10% with more than 70 open positions.
At the local USDA offices, where Kansans go if they need help from the government, the staff is also short. Traditionally, there has been a fully staffed USDA office in every county in America, but President Biden’s policies have kept employees at home and turned those offices mostly all-virtual. I met with farmers who are at a complete loss trying to navigate convoluted government websites instead of talking face-to-face with USDA employees.
There’s a workforce shortage in every industry, and agriculture is no exception. From the farm to government services for the farm, agriculture has been experiencing record employee turnover due to unnecessary vaccine mandates, enhanced unemployment benefits, and more.
And in terms of natural resources – we all know America’s farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists. America has vast amounts of natural resources available to its stewards. The biggest threat to agriculture’s natural resources isn’t availability or the weather, but federal government overreach.
Late last year, President Biden withdrew the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which sought to undo the harm caused by the ‘Waters of the United States rule from 2015, through which the federal government aimed to control nearly all bodies of water, regardless of their size or connection to larger waterways. Because of this mess, farmers and ranchers have had to conduct their business under three different definitions of what amounts to “water” in just six years.
President Biden has also halted drilling on federal lands and halted construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, exacerbating the price and shortage of American-made fuel. On our trip, Republican Leader Thompson and I saw a live oil well operated by a company that produced 60,000 barrels of oil last October from 363 active wells, and right next door, we saw an ethanol plant ready to supply America with dependable liquid fuel if President Biden would just ditch his unrealistic and ill-timed electric vehicle push – you can’t plow with a Prius.
While I recognize things like protections against the harmful Waters of the U.S. rulings and oil and gas drilling do not live within the confines of the next farm bill, I also recognize that the protection and proper use of America’s resources are vital to the strength of American food and agriculture.
The State of Agriculture is strong because of the strength of American farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers. Congress has the responsibility to get them the resources they need, or protect the resources they have, to feed, fuel, and clothe the world. We must do our job.
I yield back.”