Posted May 31, 2018
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made Kansas a stop on his “Back to Our Roots” Tour on May 30 to meet with farmers. Along with Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, he participated in a discussion panel at the Agriculture Roundup at River Creek Farms near Manhattan, toured the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF), held a Q&A forum with Governor Jeff Colyer and was the keynote speaker of the opening session at the Kansas FFA State Convention.
Top issues of discussion with farmers included the Farm Bill and trade.
Kansas Association of Wheat Growers President Ken Wood, who farms in Dickinson County, had the opportunity to ask Secretary Perdue a question on the topic of agriculture research.
“Manhattan has become quite a hub for agriculture research as you probably know,” said Wood. “We’ve got NBAF coming there. We’ve got USDA facilities there, Kansas State University, and a facility that’s near and dear to my heart is the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. That was started by farmers, funded by farmers, and the research is funded by farmers through the check-off now.
My question is, where do you envision ag research going from here, and how do you think farmers will be involved in that process?”
Secretary Perdue responded that continued investment in ag research is vital.
“Research is critical. We’ve had to fight for the research funding in the President’s budget this last time, but it is absolutely vital. You’ve seen the productivity increases. Even last year with less than ideal weather conditions, we saw the trendlines continue to grow.
“Wheat is somewhat at a plateau right now, but I think the interesting things that we have in wheat research will be amazing in the future.
“Research is critical. USDA, through the Agricultural Research Service, in conjunction with our land grants like Kansas State and others, as well as the private entities that you mentioned and the collaboration is there. It will need to continue to be there. No one has a monopoly on intellectual pursuits when it comes to research.
“We’re seeing some pretty interesting things now with the gene technology editing and CRISPR9 that is going to bring some really ‘gee-whiz’ kinds of things out there. Farmers may be growing a lot of other things other than just food in the future. We’ve got some real potential, but we cannot slow down.
We’ve seen even the EU and China surpassing us on agricultural research expenditures, and I believe — I’ve told the President this — I think if manufacturing had the same level of basic research, applied research and a delivery system like extension service, I don’t think we’d be talking about the demise of manufacturing today. I truly believe that. It’s been a miracle that’s been a collaborative effort from all those agencies going forward. I hope that we can continue. These gentlemen understand that, and they have to persuade their colleagues in the Congress to fund the kind of things that need to happen, where we can stay at the top of our game. We never want to be behind any foreign country when it comes to food production.”
In terms of trade, Secretary Perdue said he is optimistic about future trade agreements.
“There’s legitimate anxiety out there. Trade has been a roller coaster here. I’m optimistic about NAFTA. I don’t know exactly the timing. I think we’ll get that done,” he said.
“I think at the end of the day farmers are going to be very happy over the trade additions we see in China as well as NAFTA, and then maybe we can go on to TPP after that.”
Secretary Perdue also emphasized the need for getting a Farm Bill passed by Congress before September.
“Getting a Farm Bill is really the main concern. It’s very important, as Senator Roberts said today. The certainty and predictability. Farming is tough enough. There are enough risks in farming without knowing what kind of farm program you’ve got to deal with and farmers want to make decisions based on the market, but the farm programs and the farm bill has a lot to do with the decisions they make now for next year. So, we don’t need an extension. This bill expires end of September. The President wants a farm bill on his desk by the end of September, so farmers can plan for the future.”
Senator Roberts agreed that a Farm Bill will be passed this year.
“We will get a farm bill and it will be good for farmers, ranchers and growers, and it will be good for Kansas.
"They need certainty and predictability because of the tough times we’re going through,” he said. “The number one issue everywhere we go, whatever crop you talk about, is crop insurance, especially now during the times we’ve had here in Kansas. We have to have crop insurance. There are amendments that are counter-productive to that. We will defeat those amendments, and crop insurance will be just fine.”
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