President Eisenhower once correctly noted: “Without a prosperous agriculture, there is no prosperity in America.” American families benefit every day from the perseverance of our farmers and ranchers whose work is essential to what America brings to the world stage. Farmers and ranchers are the economic engine of our great state and stewards of our beautiful land.
Farm and ranch families take on enormous risks to ensure our country maintains its status as the highest quality, most affordable producer of food, fiber, and renewable fuel in the world. Our ag producers have faced volatile world markets, low commodity prices, and natural disasters that caused uncertainty in farm country. For the good of our nation and our world, Nebraska’s ag producers and rural communities need long-term predictability and confidence as they plan for the future.
Since I first arrived in Washington, I’ve been working to produce meaningful results for Nebraska’s ag producers. I knew Nebraskans wanted a farm bill that protected critical crop insurance, improved trade promotion programs, and deployed vital broadband to rural areas. My office quickly got to work. I traveled across the Good Life to hear directly from our producers. We hosted several roundtables, and I welcomed Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to Nebraska to hear from our ag producers firsthand. I’m proud to report the recently passed bipartisan farm bill achieves all of our goals and more.
A concerned man from Elmwood wrote my office recently: “At a time when farmers across the nation are managing through the lowest commodity prices in years, the certainty of a new farm bill is absolutely critical.” I couldn’t agree more. America’s farmers and ranchers are approaching the fifth year of lower prices and tighter margins. One of my top priorities throughout this process was to guarantee that the farm bill protected critical risk management programs and a provided a strong farm safety net. This bill reauthorizes crop insurance and important commodity programs like the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program to provide producers with peace of mind they need to make important decisions.
The 2018 farm bill streamlines trade promotion programs to fit under one umbrella. It consolidates the Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development, Emerging Markets Program, and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops. Combining these programs into one will provide certainty for producers as they utilize them to export more of their high quality products around the globe.
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In our 21st century economy, broadband deployment is extremely important. Our farmers rely on sensors that transmit data on soil moisture levels, weather conditions, and crop yields. Our ag producers need valuable tools to relay information on the market and analyze animal health.
Last May, I welcomed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr to Northeast Nebraska. We visited Northeast Community College in Norfolk, where we learned more about their precision agriculture curriculum. I was pleased to see my bill, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, included in the farm bill. This provision creates a task force at the FCC to identify gaps in high-speed internet connectivity across farm country. The task force will work alongside the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote the rapid expansion of broadband. It will seek to provide connectivity to 95 percent of agriculture lands by 2025.
The 2018 farm bill also reauthorizes important conservation programs that protect our natural resources and enable farmers and ranchers to be productive on their land. This bill includes language that I introduced, which recommends USDA recognize the use of remote telemetry data systems for irrigation scheduling as a best management practice in conservation programs and under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Because of agriculture’s importance to our state’s economy, all Nebraskans uniquely understand that ag policies directly affect their way of life. The 2018 farm bill delivers much-needed stability and predictability to farm families, ranchers, and rural communities that feed our hungry world.
I’m honored to fight for Nebraskans every single day in the United States Senate. Bruce and I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.