Representatives Rouzer and Johnson Join AEM’s Kip Eideberg to Discuss Farm Bill and Future of Rural America

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6/24/2024

Kip EidebergAs Congress continues to work on the 2024 Farm Bill, AEM’s Kip Eideberg sat down with Representative David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) for a wide-ranging conversation about the future of rural America, the need to connect every community with affordable, reliable high-speed internet, what should be done to expand market access for farmers and ranchers, and the importance of climate-smart agriculture practices. They also debunked a few common myths about crop insurance and discussed what makes rural America special and what must be done to ensure that it remains strong and vibrant for generations to come.

The discussion took place during the second Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall, which brought together equipment manufacturers, grower groups, and agriculture innovators to showcase the advances that drive American agriculture’s long history of using less to grow more.

Below is an excerpt of the conversation. It has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Eideberg: Congress Rouzer, agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina – contributing more $100 billion to the state’s economy. We all know that America’s farm families are facing a great deal of uncertainty, which is why we need a strong farm bill. Talk to us about the parts of the farm bill that you see as the most important to the long-term success of U.S. agriculture.

Rouzer: North Carolina agriculture is about $103 billion of the state’s economy. Agriculture is incredibly important, not only in North Carolina but throughout the country. In fact, agriculture is the number one industry in most states, something that most people do not realize. Whether you are involved in production agriculture or you eat, you are heavily invested in this farm bill and in agriculture policy. The Commodity Title is critically important. It is important that our producers have a safety net that accommodates and accounts for increases in inflation and increases in production cost. The farm bill also has to equalize and help our producers compete worldwide, especially given that so many other countries subsidize their agriculture to the hilt. On top of that producers deal with unfair trade practices and exchange rate fluctuations. A strong American dollar is great in many respects, but if you are an exporter and you rely on other countries to buy your products, it adds to the cost of American products. These are all factors that farmers have no control over. But what we do have control over is what type of safety net we can provide. All the farm bill titles are important, but Title I is really the most critical component of a strong farm bill.

Eideberg: Congressman Johnson, you sit on the Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, committees that work extensively on issues related to our supply chains and trading relationships – both of which are critical to the long-term success of rural America. What opportunities do you see in the next farm bill to enhance our relationships, create new opportunities, and benefit growers and equipment manufacturers alike?

Johnson: Both the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) and the Market Access Program (MAP) are very popular, bipartisan programs. They are almost money machines. You put a little investment in the front-end of the machine, and what comes out is many times more money. The numbers vary based on the program, but returns are often as high as $30 for every dollar invested. That is impressive. I think you will see a substantial increase in the investments in FMD and MAP. That is good news. But we also need to boost agricultural exports, facilitate food and agriculture trade, and knock down unnecessary trade barriers. This combined with more marketing dollars for FMD and MAP would do a lot to ensure that we can continue to feed and power the world.

Eideberg: There is no shortage of misconceptions about crop insurance: it is too expensive, there is too much paperwork, and it discourages farmers from reducing risk through other means. Congressman Rouzer, would you please help us dispel these myths and talk about why crop insurance works for farmers and taxpayers alike?

Rouzer: It is important for all Americans to understand that there is a reason why we have the most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world. That is because traditionally we have had a good and strong safety net for our farmers. Crop insurance is a risk management tool. Everyone has skin in the game. It has been a good program for a lot of farmers. ARC And PLC and before that the other different farm programs that were in place, all played their part to bring us today to enable farm families to survive. Agriculture is very different than any other business in that you have the weather to contend with. When the hardware store goes out of business, another store will take its place. When the farm goes out of business, the land will be redeveloped. If want to preserve rural areas, we need a good strong safety net in place so that our farm families continue to make ends meet and continue to do what they do best: feed and clothe the world.

Eideberg: The world’s population will grow to nearly 10 billion people by 2050. This means a 50 percent increase in the global demand for food, which will require a tremendous increase in agricultural production across the globe. We need to grow the food, fiber, and fuel we depend on while sustaining our land and protecting our climate. Congressman Johnson, talk to us about the importance of climate-smart agriculture practices.

Johnson: Conservation is critically important. The next farm bill will acknowledge the importance of working lands conservation even more than past farm bills have. That is not to say that there is never a role in idling acres. We can do some incredible things with soil health, water quality, habitat preservation, while working the land. Congressman Rouzer is exactly right, so much of these innovations will come from producers. Farmers and ranchers want healthy soil and improved water quality. So, what I think you will see in this next farm bill is a reinvestment in the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which really, really do work.

Watch the full conversation below or click here:

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