Sharing optimism for agriculture

Published 3:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2017

Last week we celebrated National Agriculture Day. Though it may be only one day, it serves as an important reminder of the difficult and critical work done by so many in the agriculture community that too often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. I am honored to serve a district in which agriculture is the top industry and largest employer, responsible for more than 93,000 jobs and $11 billion in economic impact.

Recently, more than one hundred producers from across the state visited Washington, D.C. as part of Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual visit to the nation’s capital. My staff and I always look forward to the farmers’ visit, and this year was no different. It was clear there was a boosted sense of optimism among the group.

That’s for good reason. This new Congress presents a number of opportunities to reshape federal agriculture policy for the better. We have already worked to roll back overreaching executive regulations that would have harmed farmers, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive attempt to extend its authority to small collections of water on individual property owners’ lands. While more work remains on that front, I am encouraged by our progress so far.

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Back in 2014, I was proud to help craft a five-year farm bill that delivered more modern, conservative, and sustainable policy for our farmers. Enacting conservative reforms to the farm bill was a significant accomplishment given the extreme division at the time between the Republican-led House of Representatives, the Democratic-led Senate, and the Obama White House. There are many ways in which that law can be improved upon.

Soon Congress will begin preliminary discussions on our nation’s next farm bill, which is why it’s the perfect time for producers to be in touch with their Representatives in Congress about how federal agriculture policy is affecting them. Of course, I will continue to advocate for policies that treat Alabama products like cotton, peanuts, timber, poultry, soybeans, and catfish fairly.

Another reason for optimism is the new presidential administration. I am encouraged by President Trump’s selection of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture. Last week, Gov. Perdue appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee for his confirmation hearing. In a refreshing respite from the contentiousness of other Cabinet nominations, Gov. Perdue’s hearing was markedly cordial. I expect his confirmation vote in the full Senate to be bi-partisan, which is good news for agriculture and our country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is indispensable in modern-day society, and its programs and decisions affect the livelihoods of every producer which is why it is so important to have both strong farm policies in place and strong leadership to implement them.

I am optimistic that Congress and Gov. Perdue can work together to deliver policies that help Alabama’s farmers do what they do best – produce the food and fiber that our country depends on.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.