‘Stay in your lane’: Bipartisan insight on how to get things done
Find bipartisan support and stay in your lane are two lessons Katie Pinke picked up from moderating a discussion about the farm bill at the Northern Corn and Soybean Expo in Fargo on Feb. 14, 2023.
I moderated a farm bill discussion at the sixth annual Northern Corn and Soy Expo in Fargo, North Dakota, with Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
The discussion ties into Agweek’s special report on the massive piece of legislation, known as the farm bill. Less than 20% of the funding in the legislation goes to farm programs such as crop insurance, conservation, livestock, trade and research programs, but it’s a critical safety net for American agriculture. More than 80% of the funding goes to nutrition programs.
As a moderator, I listened and took the experience and insight Armstrong and Heitkamp shared, asked questions submitted from the farmer audience and followed up with AgweekTV interviews after the session ended.
As I drove home from Fargo, I had two main takeaways, outside of the farm bill knowledge, which applies to all of us, far from Capitol Hill, House and Senate Ag Committees and the writing of the farm bill.
First, Armstrong said he’s been in Congress for four years and the farm bill will be the first true bipartisan legislation he’s a part of in Congress. There have been smaller bills but nothing large like the once every five years farm bill, due to expire Sept. 30, 2023.
How he explained the need for rural America to represent across party lines in the farm bill reminded me of the importance of bipartisanship across rural America and in agriculture for all of our core issues. In order to pass a farm bill, it’s often rural legislators outreaching and educating urban legislators through the House and Senate Ag Committees and the entire elected bodies.
The "R" or "D" after an elected official doesn’t matter in Washington, D.C., when the need is 218 yays in the House and 60 in the Senate for the bill to pass.
With a tiny minority actively working in production agriculture — less than 2% of Americans — there isn't room for politics to road block progress when it comes to feeding people and adding value in agriculture. The farm bill serves as example for bipartisan politics that we can use as a local to state example also when we want to put forth the best future for food and agriculture.
Second, Heitkamp shared insight that agriculture groups and farmers need to “stay in your lane” if you want to pass a farm bill.
Stay in your lane, for me, means knowing your issues, being knowledgeable and sharing about them. But you cannot take on everyone else’s issues, too, or you water down your focus.
Armstrong's and Heitkamp’s insights apply to every one of us, whether you’re actively farming, working in agriculture, a rural resident or an urban dweller. The farm bill, from nutrition to conservation, impacts each of our families and communities.
Take your bipartsianship and passionately run in your lane, whether it be a specific aspect of the farm bill or an idea for your local economic development group, county commission, school or church board, county Farm Bureau or Farmers Union board, grower association, or other group — the list continues.
The Agweek coverage on the farm bill offered contact information to elected officials that you can reach out them and share your insight. Elected officials need to hear from their constituents, those who they represent.
You know where you need to engage. You have an idea that needs support. Or you have an example on why a specific piece of legislation needs support and funding.
Share your voice and see what can be accomplished with bipartisan support from your lane.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.