Q&A: National Ag Week
March 30, 2018


Q: What is National Ag Week all about?

A: Throughout the last century, a population shift in America has created densely populated metropolitan areas, while growth in rural areas has plateaued. According to U.S. Census figures, about 14 percent of the population lives in rural areas that cover 72 percent of the nation's geography. As a result, fewer people have a direct link to American agriculture. Too many have a hazy appreciation for how food gets from farm to fork. American agriculture extends beyond the hard-working farmers and ranchers who grow the food we eat; it includes tens of thousands of off-farm jobs for those who process, market and transport the food, fibers and biofuels consumers use in daily life. National Ag Week provides an opportunity to send a message to young people about the diverse career opportunities in agriculture and remind all Americans about the valuable contribution American agriculture makes for our families, our nation's food and energy security and the U.S. economy.

As a lifelong family farmer and U.S. Senator, I am glad to help spread the word. For starters, Iowa anchors American agriculture. With 88,000 farms, we are the nation's top producer of corn, soybeans, hogs and eggs. One farmer feeds 165 people. Every third row of soybeans is exported. The pork industry was long known as the mortgage lifter for generations of Iowa farmers, creating a reliable revenue stream to pay bills. Corn and soybean growers today extract added value for their grain by fattening hogs for market and supplying biofuel refineries. The pork industry accounts for more than 140,000 jobs and contributes $36.7 billion to the economy. Our dairy herds supply local dairy processors to meet consumer demand for high-quality yogurt, cheese, milk and ice cream. And Iowa's beef and poultry growers continue to meet worldwide demand for high-protein diets, with 77 percent of poultry product exports sold to our NAFTA trading partners.

Innovation in American agriculture continues to improve efficiency and productivity on farms and factories. Near my hometown of New Hartford, a legendary farm implement manufacturer this year celebrates 100 years in the tractor business. In March 1918, John Deere purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and began selling the Waterloo Boy tractor with generations of advanced engineering to follow. We've come a long way from horse and plow to answer the call to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

Precision agriculture allows farmers to grow more with less, enjoying higher yields with advances in seed and soil technology. Agro-technologies are improving conservation practices that enable farmers to use a Goldilocks method to improve soil efficiency and fertilizer application: use just the right amount, at the right time and the right place. Despite advances of modern agriculture, some things don't change. Mother Nature and market volatility make it as important as ever that farm policy is structured to allow producers to manage their risks, conserve natural resources, pay their bills and provide opportunities for beginning farmers. With a four-year decline roiling the commodity markets, I'm working to ensure the nation's tax, trade, regulatory and renewable energy policies are giving our nation's farmers the best opportunity to compete and prosper in the marketplace. Iowa's resilience from the farm crisis 30 years ago underscored the importance of exports and reliance on global markets. A strong farm economy is Iowa's bread and butter. It's the lifeblood that brings vitality and quality of life to our small towns and rural communities.

Q: How does the "GROW Act" address concerns about the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and its impact on local economies and beginning farmers?

A: As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I've got my sleeves rolled up at the policymaking table as Congress begins work on a new farm bill. That includes strengthening conservation programs that allow stewards of the soil to earn their livelihoods on the land and continue preserving Earth's natural resources. During my county meetings across the state, I often hear concerns that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is distorting land markets, keeping beginning farmers out of the fields and straying from congressional intent. The goal of the CRP is to remove environmentally fragile land from production agriculture and partner with farmers and ranchers to protect soil and water quality. That's why I am co-sponsoring the bipartisan Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act with Sens. Joni Ernst, Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey. It would refocus conservation dollars to get the most bang for the buck to preserve soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat without harming local economies and beginning farmers. Specifically, our bill would preclude whole farm enrollment, reform how many acres per county may enroll, and maintain annual enrollment for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). During National Ag Week and every day of the year, America's farmers live and breathe a heritage of stewardship that sustains their livelihoods, contributes to the nation's food and energy security and preserves Earth's natural resources for generations to come.

National Ag Week was March 18-24, 2018. Senator Grassley is a lifelong family farmer and champion for Rural America in the United States Senate.


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