Opinion Columns & Blogs

Sen. Pat Roberts: Meet food challenge

Kansas agriculture is always at your fingertips.

It's the bread in your sandwich. It's the fiber in your clothes. It's the fuel in your car. It's dinner at your favorite steak house.

Agriculture has always been vital to our state's success, contributing more than $12 billion per year to our economy. Kansas farmers and ranchers consistently rank in the top in wheat, sorghum and beef production, and near the top in corn and soybeans. We even have a few folks growing cotton now.

They produce this not just for us but for millions around the globe who depend on us for a safe and affordable food and fiber supply. Kansas exports $4.7 billion in farm products each year.

With that as our history and our identity, it's a particular privilege to become the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee in this Congress. It's the first time in 32 years that a Kansan has held this position. Sen. Bob Dole last served as "ranking member" of the committee from 1975 to 1978. With this post, rest assured that Kansas' voice will be heard loud and clear in federal agriculture and nutrition policy.

But I also want to acknowledge that we face some serious challenges in production agriculture, as we have to double output over the next 40 years to meet global hunger demands. You only have to look at the news right now to see that international economic issues, including food prices, are playing a role in the unrest and turmoil in Egypt and many other nations across the globe.

How our government responds — and what regulations and policies it seeks to implement — will have a significant effect on our producers as well as consumers here and abroad.

As ranking member on the committee, I will keep one theme central to the issues we consider and debate: How does this help our producers meet the global food challenge? I have no doubt our farmers and ranchers can meet the challenge and can do it in a way that protects their land and ensures its use for future generations.

I will focus on maintaining the production agriculture safety net, expanding trade opportunities for farmers and ranchers, conducting oversight of regulations that threaten to destroy the competitiveness of America's farmers, and maintaining the security of our food and agriculture sectors. I look forward to working with my friend and colleague, committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in achieving these goals.

Several Kansas aggies will also help me lead this effort. My staff director, Mike Seyfert, grew up on a farm near Ada. My deputy staff director, Joel Leftwich, grew up in Wellington. My state ag representative, Mel Thompson, farms a Century Farm in Medicine Lodge. And my senior ag policy adviser, Ryan Flickner, hails from Wichita and spends time on the family farm near Moundridge.

Together we'll be a champion for those who feed a troubled and hungry world, while looking for new ways we can propel our industry and our rural communities into the next generation.