Videos & Speeches
Madam President, the Presiding Officer comes from a state very similar to mine, and what I was going to say is that when you do--in fact, our state has twice as many cattle as it has people--you begin to understand the importance of agriculture to our nation's economy and the communities that comprise our state. In rural Kansas, as it would be in rural Iowa, agriculture is our economic lifeblood.
One of the primary reasons I sought public office was my belief in rural America and that it needed a strong voice in Washington advocating on behalf of that part of the country. Since the time I was first elected to Congress, I believe that has only become even more important.
People involved in farming and ranching endure challenges that no other industry, no other profession faces. They are at the mercy of Mother Nature and rely on favorable weather to produce a crop. The severe drought that has plagued parts of Kansas for a long number of years and is once again crippling this year's wheat crop is evidence of the unique challenges.
Farmers and ranchers also operate in a global marketplace that oftentimes is distorted by high foreign subsidies and tariffs. American farmers are the most efficient producers in the world. Too often, however, our farmers cannot be afforded the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.
Unfortunately, agriculture is also under assault from the Obama administration. Overregulation by the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threatens the livelihood of farmers and ranchers in my state, which in turn threatens the viability of family businesses that line main streets in rural towns across our state.
To better understand the damage caused by foolish overregulation, consider waters of the United States. Despite the overwhelming outcry that the Obama administration received from American producers--from agriculture and other businesses--after proposing the potentially harmful regulation, the administration has continued their march forward toward finalizing that rule. The regulation is a troublesome expansion of federal control over the nation's waters. The Obama administration has continued to repeat the mantra that the rule is only intended to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act, but we all know better. Not only has the rule failed to provide clarity or certainty, it also seeks to expand the EPA's jurisdiction to include thousands of new miles of streams, rivers, and even dry ditches.
Where I come from, the term “navigable waters,” which is what the statute says, means something on which you can float a boat. We don't have many of those waters in the state of Kansas. Yet, this administration seems to believe they have the right to enforce those burdensome regulations on land that is far removed from what is traditionally considered navigable waters.
People in rural Kansas also faced increased regulation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As my colleagues will recall, I led a debate earlier this year to delist the lesser prairie chicken from the endangered species list. The bird's listing is creating havoc and uncertainty in Kansas, where its habitat is located.
Wind energy projects have been abandoned, oil-and-gas production has slowed, and farmers and ranchers are faced with uncertainty regarding new restrictions as to what they can do on their privately owned land.
Those of us from Kansas know that we need the return of rainfall and moisture and that will increase the habitat and therefore increase the population of the lesser prairie chicken, not burdensome Federal regulations that hinder the rural economy.
While the lesser prairie chicken regulation is directly harming the western part of Kansas, the administration's recent proposal to list the long-eared bat as a threatened species will do the same in our state's eastern communities.
We often speak about the ever-increasing average age of farmers in the country and the need to encourage more young people to stay on the farm and to return from college to the farm. I could not agree more with this goal. I believe a key component in achieving this objective is to make certain our nation's policies and regulations make farming and ranching an attractive venture for our children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, the regulations we have seen from this administration too often make farming and ranching much less attractive, much less profitable, and young people have made the conclusion that the battle cannot be won.
I am deeply concerned about the impact of this administration's regulatory scheme and the effect that scheme will have on farmers and ranchers, but there remains reason for us to be optimistic about the future of American agriculture. We are faced with a growing rural population who is hungry for high-quality, nutritious food products grown by American farmers. We must continue to work toward reducing foreign barriers to make certain that people from around the globe have affordable access to U.S.-grown products. We must continue to invest in policies that lift up rural America, not hold it back.
I am the chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and I am working to make certain that Congress is doing its part to support farmers and ranchers. American policies should aim to keep rural America strong by way of implementation of the farm bill, preserving and protecting crop insurance, investing in agriculture research, and supporting rural development.
I often tell my colleagues here in Washington about the special way of life in Kansas and the opportunities that special way of life continues to provide. The strength of rural Kansas is a key component to what makes our state a great place to live, work, and raise families. The future of communities in rural America depends upon the economic viability of our farmers and ranchers, and it is time to make certain that federal policies and regulatory decisions coming out of Washington, D.C., reflect this critical importance.