Weekly Column

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In 1973, the Agriculture Council of America organized a time for our nation to come together to, in their words, “recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” On March 14, as part of National Agriculture week, I encourage everyone to join me in celebrating our hardworking agriculture producers on this – the 46th anniversary of National Agriculture Day.

Farmers and ranchers are part of the 1 in 3 Nebraskans whose livelihood is connected to production agriculture and who drive this economic engine of our state. 

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I recently had the opportunity check in with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at a hearing on the implementation of the 2018 farm bill. 

My husband Bruce and I welcomed Secretary Perdue to our ranch in Cherry County in 2017. When I highlighted his visit during the hearing, he responded with a truth that Nebraskans know better than anyone: “Those of us who thought we lived in rural America have not been to the Sandhills.”

Our farmers and ranchers depend on broadband. It is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity. Many of the latest farming technologies require internet connectivity for real-time data collection and analysis. 

I introduced an amendment to the farm bill that created a Precision Agriculture Task Force to assess the needs of connectivity and technology in Nebraska and across our country. The task force will seek out existing gaps and determine how to measure internet access on croplands and ranchlands. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to publish a report on the status of high-speed internet on croplands and ranchlands, and the projected future connectivity needs for farmers and ranchers. 

Access to foreign markets is also critical for our state. In 2016, Nebraska was the fifth largest agricultural exporting state in the country. Our ag producers exported nearly $6.6 billion in agricultural goods, which means roughly 33 cents of every dollar made by a farmer or rancher in Nebraska comes from another country. The farm bill consolidated many of our trade promotion programs to target areas of need and ensure adequate funding for the most effective programs. 

It is difficult to overstate the effect that a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak would have not just on the state of Nebraska, but our country as a whole. The farm bill established the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. These programs will ensure that USDA and its partners have the tools they need to identify, diagnose, and respond to a potential outbreak. The bill provided $300 million over 10 years to be allocated to animal disease prevention and management programs.

I was pleased with the Secretary’s testimony, but there is still much work left to be done. I look forward to our continued work to improve the daily lives of Nebraskans.

America’s agriculture producers are the beating heart of our nation. Our world reaps what they sow. The product of their hard work is found not only here in Nebraska, but on store shelves and dinner tables around the world. 

With my whole heart, I thank every Nebraskan that works in the agriculture industry. Your character, your ingenuity, and your dedication keeps our hungry world fed. 

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