Sen. Jerry Moran frustrated by slow progress on new farm bill

Sen. Jerry Moran said many farm bill program provisions need to be reworked.

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National News

March 21, 2024 - 2:43 PM

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said he was worried congressional leaders weren’t pressing hard enough on farm bill negotiations and potential of Congress missing an opportunity to alter food and agriculture programs. Photo by Kansas Reflector screen capture of U.S. Senate’s YouTube channel

TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas acknowledged difficulty of writing new farm bills while rebuking congressional colleagues for lack of progress toward compromise on a new bill adjusting agriculture commodity programs, food aid and measures to combat inflation in production costs.

Moran, who has considered himself a farm-state aggie since entering Congress in 1997, said during a Senate floor speech that a sort of political malaise appeared to be taking root in Washington, D.C., that could postpone action on an updated five-year farm bill until after the 2024 elections.

“Tough decisions are ahead of us, but we should not walk away from the process. It’s a dereliction of duty to the farmers and ranchers of America,” Moran said. “I’ve been through numerous farm bills. They’re always hard and they’re always late and we never get them done easily. But this seems different to me for the first time saying, ‘What we have, is what we get.’”

In November, Congress extended for one year the version of the farm bill adopted in 2018. That arrangement would expire Sept. 30, but could be extended again.

Moran said many farm bill program provisions needed to be reworked to more precisely frame the agriculture safety net and answer shifting market demand, prolonged drought and inflationary pressure on farming inputs and land prices.

Net farm income hit record highs in 2022, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said net farm income declined 16% from 2022 to 2023. The USDA’s economists projected a 25.5% drop in farm income from last year. The situation was a blend of eroding demand for U.S. commodities following the COVID-19 pandemic and escalation in production costs tied to labor, pesticides, fertilizer and livestock prices.

“This is just unsustainable,” Moran said. “American agriculture is at a pressure point. There’s record volatility in the farm economy, and farm income is falling by the most significant amount of all time. We ought to be providing certainty to those who provide our food, fuel and fiber.”

He said Kansas’ stake in the process was tied to thousands of jobs in crop and livestock production as well as work on renewable energy sources, agriculture research and international food aid programs. He said the U.S. response to global hunger was part of the national security calculations.

“The time is now to show leadership,” the GOP senator said. “I hope that we as leaders can get back to the table and produce a farm bill that provides meaningful and real relief for Kansas producers.”

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