Two years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, many of us thought we’d quickly get past it and get back to normal. But as we move into a new year, we continue to face the lingering and devastating impacts of this pandemic. However, our resolve to be stronger together has not weakened, and we will continue taking the challenges we face head-on. In the face of unprecedented challenges, farmers and ranchers continued to step up to support their communities and stood up to shape policies affecting their farms and ranches.
We always hope for a brighter future, and 2022 is no different. There will be challenges, no doubt, but there will be many opportunities to shape federal legislation and regulations to protect and sustain family farms. And with the midterm elections later this year, farmers and ranchers will have even greater opportunities to make our voices heard.
One of the issues at the forefront for farm country is the rising cost of inputs like fertilizer and the difficulties securing supplies for the spring planting season. Shortages of parts and new machinery have sent prices skyrocketing for both new and used machinery. The American Farm Bureau provided the administration with multiple recommendations to alleviate supply chain challenges, based on what our members shared with us and guided by our grassroots policy. While we continue to work through this issue, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient and secure supply chain.
This year we will continue intensely advocating for a responsible definition of WOTUS as this administration continues the unfortunate ping pong match rewriting this regulation. Our call for clear rules to maintain the clean water we all depend on has not changed. The 2015 rule was an overreach by the federal government, and thankfully courts blocked its implementation in over half of the country. Our grassroots efforts at Farm Bureau and across the agriculture community helped spur the development of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This rule provided clear rules to protect our water. As the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers work to rewrite the rule yet again, we must make our voices heard so the agencies understand how the rule could impact farms and small businesses. Farmers and ranchers shouldn’t need a team of lawyers and consultants to move forward with practices to sustain their land and businesses.
We will also have the opportunity to help shape the 2023 farm bill throughout the upcoming year. We have already started the Farm Bureau Farm Bill Working Group to explore the issues that need fixing so we can lay a foundation for lawmakers as they write the legislation.
Year in and year out, the struggle of hiring an adequate, skilled workforce continues to be the most significant limiting factor to U.S. agriculture. It is disappointing that Congress failed to advance ag labor reform in 2021, but we will remain vigilant in pressing for a long-term solution. It is time for Congress to put the security of our food supply above politics and pass a solution that works for all of agriculture in 2022.
I am optimistic about the future for farmers and ranchers. While we face challenges, I’m confident that the dedicated men and women who stock America’s pantries will rise up to meet those challenges and find solutions. That’s just what we do. And I know opportunities for growth and improvement will come, too. Together, we’ll seize them to ensure agriculture continues to thrive throughout our great country in 2022 and beyond.