Early one morning this week, I headed to the United States Department of Agriculture for a breakfast meeting with Secretary Sonny Perdue from Georgia.  We had a productive discussion about the new internet initiative for rural America, the ecosystem of rural development, and the importance of food security.  

Before I left, I took a walk down memory lane to see my old quarters as an intern during graduate school.  At that time, the old Payment-in-Kind (PIK) program was a tool being deployed to deal with supply issues.  Much has changed in agriculture policy since then, but the unifying theme remains: food security for America.  This we do well.  The recent passage of a new Farm Bill continues the legislative tradition. 

The Farm Bill provides risk-management tools to protect farmers from the inevitable ups and downs in weather, markets, and crop production.  The bill's nutrition programs and food assistance to millions of others around the world protect those in vulnerable circumstances.  The bill also fosters conservation practices that enhance soil protection and wildlife habitat, while ensuring that America continues to lead the world in agricultural innovation, food safety, and renewable fuels.

The future of agriculture in Nebraska and across the U.S. depends on nurturing a new generation of producers; and the new Farm Bill continues to promote avenues for young and beginning farmers to pursue this path.  The legislation also embraces the growing trend toward local and regional food markets.  By providing the necessary infrastructure, we can help connect the rural to the urban and farmers to consumers as part of the growing farm-to-table movement.  The Farm Bill also provides key funding for the newly created Local Agriculture Market Program, which assists farmers markets, value-added products, and local food promotion.

Next week, there is a special opportunity to welcome to Nebraska USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey, who will share his thinking and answer questions.  I invite you to dialogue with us about the current state of Rural America, the new Farm Bill, and ongoing trade talks.  The event will be held this coming Wednesday, February 20, at 12:30 p.m., at the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District Conference Room, 1508 Square Turn Boulevard, in Norfolk.

Here is a link to a breakdown of the Farm Bill’s provisions.

In my new role as the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, it is a privilege to provide leadership on how to enhance and support the new Farm Bill.  Almost every week in Washington, I meet with representatives from the various ag commodities that we produce in Nebraska.  Other Nebraskans visit with me about the importance of rural community and the emerging opportunities in tele-medicine, tele-work, and micro-enterprise.  Food as medicine, tribal food sovereignty, and urban agriculture are also exciting new trends. 

I am proud to live and work in a state that is defined by agriculture, especially this week as our land-grant institution, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, celebrates its 150th anniversary. 

Little did I know when I was an intern at USDA that I would one day climb the stairs to the Secretary's office above to plow through agriculture policy.  Our relationship to food is one of the most important parts of the human experience.  We look forward to a good conversation in Norfolk.  If you have any questions about the event, please contact my office at 402-438-1598.