Arguably one of the most important topics at this year’s American Sugarbeet Growers Association meeting in Miami, Fla., was what the agriculture sector needed to strive for in the 2018 farm bill. The meeting opened with a Monday morning session that brought the upcoming farm bill to the forefront, titled "Looking Ahead to the 2018 Food Security Act." The panel featured commodity leaders from several spectrums of agriculture, including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, dairy and crop insurance.
Gordon Stone, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, took a compelling angle on the subject. The fourth-generation Montana farmer said the greatest challenge surrounding the 2018 farm bill was educating Congress on agriculture's vital importance and what it needs to maintain its viability. "So many of our representatives now are tied to urban areas," said Stoner. "They have no connection to farm country; and, as a result, it comes down to education – explaining how the farm bill provides safe, affordable, clean, nutritious food." Nearly 80% of the farm bill is nutrition-based, rather than being directly related to agriculture. "A lot of that is by design," continued Stoner. "Without our urban brethren, we could never pass a farm bill." The turnover in Congress, the House in particular, creates a never-ending job of needing to continually educate the new freshman congressmen on what the farm bill does for agriculture and for Americans. "Often times this needs to just be done one-on-one with the member themselves or with staff," said Stoner. "Explain the intricacies of the farm bill, how it works, how it benefits farmers, how it keeps us on the land." Perhaps the biggest focus needs to be on crop insurance, as it continues to come under attack by numerous legislators. "When our congressmen see that farmers are not profiting from crop insurance and they realize it simply allows them to survive for another year, the value can be shown," said Stoner. "That is what it is all about then: education."