Legislative Activity

2018 Farm Bill Hearings Officially Underway; Kansas’ “Big First” Representative Roger Marshall Welcomes Panelists

Last week, leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee – Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) – traveled to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, to kick off the first 2018 Farm Bill hearing. The discussion lasted approximately three hours and included nearly 20 testimonies from farmers, community leaders, and business owners across the state of Kansas. The location of the hearing was particularly special for Chairman Roberts, as he received his Bachelor of Art degree in Journalism from the university in 1958.

The hearing’s Welcome Panel included the newest member of the Kansas delegation. Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), former Obstetrician and Captain in the United States Army Reserves, was sworn in last month to represent the Sunflower State’s First Congressional District – coined the “Big First.” In his remarks, Rep. Marshall discussed the importance of working with his colleagues in Washington to identify farm bill policies that will support the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Rep. Marshall, also a graduate of Kansas State University, defeated incumbent Tim Huelskamp by more than 13 points in the Kansas Republican primary in August of 2016, and then sailed through the Election Day, receiving 66 percent of the three-way vote. Rep. Marshall’s presence at the first official farm bill hearing is particularly noteworthy, as his predecessor made headlines during his time in Washington.

A member of the far-right faction of the Republican Party, Tim Huelskamp was elected in November of 2010 during the tea party wave that flipped the House of Representatives to Republican control. Huelskamp served on the House Agriculture Committee for nearly two years; however, he frequently bucked House Republican leadership and committee chairmen on fiscal matters and was subsequently removed from his position on the House Committees on Agriculture and the Budget in December of 2012. Nevertheless, the revocation of his committee memberships did little to stop Huelskamp from opposing legislation relating to federal spending, even when it meant voting against the wishes of the majority of his constituents. During the summer of 2013, Huelskamp joined 61 of his Republican colleagues and all but 24 of his Democratic colleagues in voting against the farm bill on the House floor. Ironically, his ‘no’ vote was cast in protest of the bill’s inability to cut as much spending from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, as he believed was necessary, while the majority of the Democratic ‘no’ votes were in protest of the bill’s cuts to the same program. Because of the wide opposition to the nutrition title, with Huelskamp’s help, the farm bill failed by a 195-234 vote. This angered many agriculture groups who helped elect Huelskamp as their voice in Washington.

After losing the support of many rural and farm groups in Kansas, including the Kansas Farm Bureau, and unable to persuade House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to lead the charge in reinstating his membership on the House Agriculture Committee, Huelskamp was ultimately unable to retain his congressional seat. To add salt to Huelskamp’s wounds, Representative Marshall was recently selected to serve on the House Agriculture Committee for the 115th Congress, giving Kansas’ “Big First” the agriculture-focused voice in Washington its constituents have made clear they desire.

As the current farm bill expires in September 2018, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are expected to continue farm bill-related outreach through hearings and listening sessions to help guide committee members and their staff as they collaborate to write effective food and farm policies.

This Week’s Hearings/Business Meetings:

  • On Tuesday, February 28, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conversation and Forestry has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Conservation Policy.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Tuesday, February 28, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: International Market Development.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, March 1, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a business meeting to consider the Budget Views and Estimates Letter of the Committee on Agriculture for the agencies and programs under the jurisdiction of the committee for Fiscal Year 2018.