Weekly Column

May 15 2023

Our Farm Bill Visit

Last week, I brought my colleague Senator John Boozman, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, to Nebraska for a series of visits with family farmers and ranchers.

The topic of our visits was the Farm Bill, a package of agriculture legislation advanced through the Agriculture Committee and passed by Congress every five years. I led these discussions because this sweeping legislation affects nearly every aspect of our nation’s ag policies, and it’s critical that we get it right.

We kicked off the day with a stop in the Valley area to speak with farmers about the importance of preserving safety net programs like crop insurance in this Farm Bill. Another important area of discussion was disaster relief. I’ve introduced a bill to cut red tape and give producers more up-front assistance after disaster strikes. Lastly, we talked about how extreme regulations, like California’s Prop 12, will harm producers, and the important role trade policy plays in Nebraska’s agricultural economy.

Next, Senator Boozman and Senator Pete Ricketts joined us for a roundtable at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension and Education Center (ENREEC). ENREEC is a hub of research and innovation. The researchers we met with during our roundtable are collaborating with producers to make Nebraska a national leader in precision ag technologies. Precision agriculture tools help producers monitor inputs, including fertilizer and water usage. This helps farmers and ranchers optimize their operations and drive down costs.

At ENREEC, researchers are working on everything from advanced irrigation techniques, which reduce water usage, to sensor-based fertigation management research, which boosts efficiency and profitability. After our roundtable, we toured some of ENREEC’s demonstration projects in the field. It’s clear Nebraska will continue to help pave the way for the future of agriculture. 

I’ve introduced two bills that aim to make precision agriculture technologies more accessible to a wide range of producers. My first bill, the Precision Agriculture Loan (PAL) Act, would give small- to medium-sized producers the opportunity to apply for USDA loans to fund their precision agriculture purchases. The Producing Responsible Energy and Conservation Incentives and Solutions for the Environment (PRECISE) Act would expand existing USDA programs to cover precision agriculture technologies. Both of these bills would make strides toward spreading access to precision ag, which will benefit producers and consumers.

After ENREEC, we had the opportunity to stop at Mead Cattle Company to tour their feed lots and talk with a group of cattle producers about their operations and their Farm Bill priorities. These producers work hard to help feed the world and be good managers of the natural resources and livestock in their care.

It was nice to host Senator Boozman in Nebraska so he could hear firsthand from family farmers and ranchers about which agriculture programs work, where the gaps are, and what can be improved. And he had the opportunity to learn more about the importance of the research being done by one of our land-grant universities. Through hard work and determination, Nebraskans have created a thriving agricultural industry that is integral to our nation’s livelihood.

I’m committed to leveraging my position on the Senate Agriculture Committee to support that proud legacy. I look forward to passing a strong Farm Bill later this year.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.