December 1, 2023

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Farm Bill Extension Welcome, But Re-Authorization Still Needed

December 1, 2023

Agriculture is the heart and soul of what we do in Nebraska. Our farmers and ranchers feed and fuel the world. Ensuring the strength of our agriculture sector is critical for Nebraska, but also our country. Food security is national security. Supply chain disruptions during the pandemic reinforced the need to prioritize food production at home. As Senator, I am working to ensure we pass a comprehensive Farm Bill that supports this.

Congress is supposed to pass a new Farm Bill every five years. It is a crucial and complex piece of legislation that deals with everything from crop insurance to conservation to trade and nutrition programs. Our farmers and ranchers rely on the certainty and stability of these programs to make decisions. Without an extension, some programs would revert to Depression-era rules that are out of touch with current needs. That would have been a disaster. That’s why I proudly supported the one-year extension of the Farm Bill we passed last month.

This temporary extension avoids a lapse in funding for critical agriculture programs. It also provides some certainty to producers for 2024. Still, I believe America’s farmers and ranchers deserve the certainty only a full, five-year Farm Bill reauthorization can provide. I’m working with my colleagues to get this done as soon as possible.

There are a lot of Nebraska priorities that should be included in a comprehensive Farm Bill. First, a strong safety net for producers that protects them from natural disasters and volatile market prices. This includes crop insurance, the Livestock Risk Protection Program, and the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. We should include voluntary, working lands-based conservation programs to encourage the protection of our natural resources without restricting private property rights. The Farm Bill must also support our trade programs like the Foreign Market Development Program, which returns $24.50 for every dollar invested. Growing the international marketplace for Nebraska products was a big priority of mine as Governor. I am continuing that work as Senator.

Additionally, I’m fighting for the next Farm Bill to include three bipartisan pieces of legislation I’ve introduced this year. My SNAP Next Step Act would provide services like job search coaching, interview prep, and resume writing to those on SNAP benefits. It’s a hand up that gets workers into higher, better paying jobs and off government assistance. Workers who completed the program saw an average income increase of over $25,000 more per year. Sixty percent of those families no longer rely on SNAP.Forty percent reduced their need for those benefits. Before beginning the program, the average monthly benefit to participants was $508. After SNAP Next Step, the average monthly benefit dropped to $179. Better jobs also allow workers to spend more time with their families and typically have better benefits. It’s a proven Nebraska solution we implemented successfully at the state level when I was Governor. My bill brings it nationwide, without any additional costs to taxpayers.

I’ve heard directly from stakeholders who want to see action on flood solutions in the next Farm Bill. Flooding can cost agriculture businesses and rural communities billions of dollars in losses each year. In 2019, we experienced this directly in Nebraska, with the most widespread flooding in our state’s history. My bipartisan Flood Protection and Infrastructure Resilience Act would cut red tape and help communities not just recover from disasters, but also reduce future damage.

Finally, my Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Act would extend and enhance the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). RMAP supports small businesses by enabling rural microentrepreneurs to obtain better access to capital for startup and development costs. The bill rewards innovation and entrepreneurship in rural parts of the country like Nebraska.

All three of these bipartisan, common-sense bills reflect Nebraska priorities. All three bills protect Nebraska’s agriculture sector and rural communities. 

We are working toward a full, five-year Farm Bill reauthorization that Nebraska farmers and ranchers can rely on. I will continue to push back on burdensome mandates and regulations that threaten our way of life and private property rights. I’m honored to serve our state and will never stop working to protect the Good Life from Washington overreach.

My team and I are here to serve you. Contact us anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact.