(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

Two GOP lawmakers stopped by Manhattan’s Kansas Farm Bureau office Tuesday to discuss recent visits with Kansas agriculture businesses and leaders.

1st district Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) as well as ranking GOP agriculture committee member Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) made the trip following a day of activity starting in Garden City on Monday, with the two visiting KFB and touring the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan on National Agriculture Day.

“There’s nothing that makes me more happy than when I get to welcome people to our district and tell the story of our  agriculture,” Mann says. “That’s why I wanted to invite my good friend Congressman Glenn Thompson from Pennsylvania to our district, to our State, to really talk about agriculture and a lot of things that are impacting us.”

The two arrived at the KFB office following their tour of NBAF, the soon-to-complete $1.25 billion infectious disease laboratory adjacent to Kansas State University and slated to employ 400 individuals. Mann says he had an opportunity to tour the facility before, saying it will strengthen the security of the U.S. and global food supply.

“I think the position of it is just perfect,” says Thompson, noting its proximity and partnership with K-State. “This is a force for good for the American food supply.

“There’s very few degrees of separation between animal health and human health.”

On the agenda for discussion was the 2023 Farm Bill, with the current bill expiring next September. The bill is renewed every five years and broadly encompasses agriculture policy as well as governing and funding various programs including crop insurance and nutrition assistance.

Thompson says key focus points for this bill are centered around tilling the soil for positive population growth and restoring a robust rural economy.

“[In] too many rural areas we’ve had that drain, that loss, and we need that workforce,” Thompson says. “And we need to make sure we’re working on the right kinds of things, amenities like rural broadband which should not be optional. That should be with sufficient broadband length to be able to accommodate all the needs that people have.”

One headlining topic related to the upcoming Farm Bill has been its focus on mitigating climate change and beefing up funds for conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Thompson has stated he believes farmers can have an impact on the progress of climate change through such programs – which he hopes remain voluntary.

“There will always be those in Washington who want a heavier approach, government-centric, that’s not my style,” says Thompson. “And I don’t think that’s the approach of the majority of the people that serve on the House Agriculture Committee, certainly not on the Republican side. We’re farmer-centric.”

(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

He says ensuring farmers and ranchers benefit most highly from climate change efforts is one of the four principles he says guides his outlook on dealing with climate change from an agriculture perspective. Rounding out the principles for Thompson are not sequestering economic concerns from talk of conservation and environment, keeping efforts science-based, and starting ‘with what works’

“It’s the voluntary-led conservation that we support that really has resulted in this country in natural land solutions in the sequestration of greenhouse gasses in the amount of 6.1 gigatons annually,” he says. “To put that in perspective, that’s every bit of a greenhouse gas that gets emitted in those lands plus an additional 10.1 percent that could be used and put towards energy production, manufacturing, transportation.”

Thompson also touched on an upcoming hearing into anti-competitive practices in the beef industry before the Agriculture Committee. Chair David Scott (D-GA) issued a release on the hearing Monday, saying the market is dominated by four companies experiencing record profits which prompted investigation into how that impacts prices for both ranchers and consumers.

Thompson says he’s hopeful the hearing won’t be focused on villainizing any firms, acknowledging a need for greater competition in the livestock industry.

“And we’ll take that into the next Farm Bill,” says Thompson. “What can we do to take […] very small processors and help them grow to be small and small grow to be medium and medium grow to be large?

“To me, that’s the approach that we should take.”

The two colleagues also discussed the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the international export of wheat. Russia constitutes 19 percent of global exports, while Ukraine produces 11 percent. Mann says Ukraine grows enough produce to feed 400 million people, as reported by the Odessa Journal, with a high volume of that food flowing to Asia Minor and the Middle East.

“If you look where that food goes, […] it’s Turkey, it’s Syria, it’s Iraq, it’s Jordan, it’s Egypt,” says Mann. “85 percent of the food that Egypt eats comes from Ukraine.

“I think we have to realize that this horrible action that an authoritarian dictator, effectively in Vladimir Putin, has taken is not just destabilizing Ukraine – it’s going to destabilize the food supply network to 400 million people.”

Egypt on Monday fixed the price of bread amid price surges in the nation as a result of market impacts from the invasion.

Thompson says beyond price and inflation related economic impacts, such a disruption of food accessibility will lead to more unrest around the world.

“We’re probably going to see, certainly perhaps an uptick in violence,” says Thompson. “Certainly an uptick in hunger, starvation and even death.”

Mann closed by highlighting the importance of food independence, saying agriculture policy and food quantity directly impacts national security and freedom in the United States.

“A reason that America is and has been the greatest country in the history of the world is because of our freedom and [in]large part because we’ve never had to rely on another country for our food supply.”

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