The American Farm Bureau kicked off the week hosting more than 150 farmers and ranchers from across the country for our premier advocacy event, the Advocacy Fly-In. Our grassroots leaders know the importance of boots on the ground to get things done, and this week, those boots brought them to our nation’s capital to advocate for agriculture’s most pressing issues, with the 2023 farm bill at the top of the list.

While the team here at American Farm Bureau works year-round with lawmakers and their staff, nothing can replace the face-to-face meetings between farmers and ranchers and our elected officials. Agriculture is critical in every state, from growing the food, fiber and fuel we all need to supporting 46 million jobs across the economy. The issues that matter to agriculture matter to all Americans, and farm policy presents a unique opportunity to bring folks from both sides of the aisle together to find solutions.

Yesterday, our members heard from the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, who took our questions on how we can work together to get a farm bill passed THIS YEAR.

All the leaders thanked our grassroots members for coming to Washington to meet with lawmakers, and encouraged them to share their personal stories.

“As you tell your story, talk about your day. Talk about the things you worry about, the things you juggle as you work to create the safest, most abundant food supply in the world. That is really important in giving people an appreciation of what the farm bill is all about,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said.

Senator John Boozman, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, noted, “There is simply no substitute for speaking directly with lawmakers about the impact decisions made in Washington have on your livelihoods at home. The best ideas come from the ground up.”

“To have an effective farm bill, we must reach across the aisle and the Capitol,” Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, chair of the House Agriculture Committee added. “Conversations like the one we had here today highlight the importance of bipartisan and bicameral work to support our nation’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers and consumers.”

Representative David Scott, ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, who was not able to join in person, sent a video message to our members to encourage them in their advocacy efforts. “Today’s discussion is critical to ensuring the next farm bill adequately supports America’s diverse agriculture industry. I am committed to working with my colleagues across the aisle to pass a bipartisan farm bill that gives America’s farmers the reassurance they need to continue ensuring America’s position as a world-leading producer of food and fiber, and to ensuring we continue our fight against poverty and hunger with a strong nutrition title.”

In the 118th Congress, there are 260 members who have never worked on a farm bill before. That’s nearly half of Congress, so we certainly have got our advocacy work cut out for us. But farmers and Farm Bureau never shy away from a challenge. Across the agriculture and food supply chain, we know how important the farm bill is to keeping our food supply secure and sustainable. Our grassroots members took that message straight to their representatives and senators this week, and we’ll keep sharing that message on and off the Hill till we’ve gotten the 2023 farm bill done.

We know this could more accurately be called a food and farm bill, so engagement with the public will also be important in getting the farm bill passed. Our research earlier this year showed that 71% of folks have not read or heard much at all about the farm bill. But when we shared just the basics of what’s in the farm bill and what it means for all Americans having access to the safe, affordable food, support for the farm bill increased. In fact, 73% then said there would be a significant impact on the country if we did not get the farm bill passed this year.

The farm bill isn’t the only big issue for agriculture, however. During the Advocacy Fly-In, we also brought in policy experts from our team at AFBF to talk about the latest on WOTUS and farm labor. When it comes to water regulations, farmers got a big win with the Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA, but there’s still work to be done. Farm Bureau members have been active in coming to the table on this issue, and we will keep engaging with EPA and advocating for clear rules that respect our careful stewardship.

Also top of mind for farmers is the need for ag labor reform. This continues to be one of the greatest limiting factors for American agriculture. We need a guest worker visa program that provides the flexibility farmers and their employees need, and we need to bring stability and sound data to H-2A wages. We have achieved some bipartisan agreement on the Adverse Effect Wage Rate’s fundamental flaws, and I hope we can get similar consensus on the Department of Labor’s latest regulatory overreach with these wage rates. It’s time for us to build on our common ground here and deliver a solution that works for all.

There’s no doubt, we have some big items on our checklist for the 118th Congress, but every time I see our Farm Bureau members here in Washington, I am confident of what we can achieve together. Farmers and ranchers aren’t just advocating for policy, we’re advocating for the food, fiber and fuel supply that we’re committed to producing for our communities and our country. I have no doubt, that our elected leaders were inspired by their meetings with farmers and ranchers this week, and I hope that will spur them in working together to deliver the solutions that will strengthen American agriculture.