Nov 21 2016
Thanksgiving is a time to gather together and count our many blessings. We take a day away from the hustle and bustle – and our all-consuming busy-ness – to pause and reflect on the things for which we are grateful. I appreciate the opportunity to be reminded each year of what’s important, to express my gratitude, and to enjoy our traditional meal (the stuffing is my favorite part).
Food-filled celebrations are a time I reflect on the hard work of the people who raised our turkey, grew our vegetables and harvested the grain used to bake bread. As a kid growing up in rural Kansas, our entire community revolved around the work of getting our crops to the local grain elevator. Each year, families in our area battled market uncertainty and unpredictable weather for a chance at a successful harvest. Young people rolled up their sleeves and went to work alongside their parents, spending long days and late nights in a tractor or combine while still making certain all of the livestock were cared for. This tradition has not changed for hardworking farmers and ranchers across our state or for the next generation of Kansas kids growing up on our farms today. They learn the technical and business skills needed to run a farm or ranch, as well as the value of hard work, perseverance and working as a team to get things done.
As Kansans, this work is near and dear to our hearts, but for many Americans living in urban areas, this is not the case. Thanksgiving is a time when the contributions of rural America shine, and when individuals across the country are connected by the simple but valuable tradition of a meal. It is also a time when we ought to be reminded that our safe, affordable food supply and agricultural traditions are what make it all possible.
As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I have had the opportunity to lead a number of fights to preserve these traditions which over the last few years have been under siege. When I am in Washington, D.C., I spend a lot of time sharing with people who are not familiar with what the rural way of life really looks like – that in rural Kansas, local economies depend on the success or failure of our ag community.
From the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rule to ban youth under the age of 16 from participating in many common farm-related tasks, to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Waters of the United States rule to regulate ponds and ditches, it feels as though for years now, the federal government has been working against our traditions. That’s why I consider it so crucial to advocate for Kansas values and the Kansas way of life on Capitol Hill. We must continue to raise our voices to share our priorities – we have seen how effective we can be when we work together like we did in 2012 to successfully force the DOL to withdraw their proposed restrictions on young people working on family farms.
We can appreciate this holiday’s special role in reminding all Americans how important agriculture is for all of us. We can celebrate our blessings by working to provide for those without a meal on their tables or family around them this week – by volunteering at local food banks, donating non-perishable items or inviting those we know who may be spending the holiday alone to be a part of our gatherings. My wife Robba and I are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving this year with soldiers and their families at Fort Riley. We are thankful for the hard work of farmers and ranchers across Kansas and for the opportunity to reflect on the many ways we are blessed.