2023 KFB Congressional TourPosted on Mar 21, 2023
"A time to have the voices of agriculture heard."
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Each year, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) members by the hundreds make their way to the nation’s capital to participate in the annual Congressional Tour.
And while many activities take place, as part of the Tour, the real purpose of the event is to get updates on national issues and to communicate with Kentucky’s Congressional delegation.
“We come each year, in big numbers to meet with our representatives and senators to discuss agriculture issues and to hear from them about national topics that affect the family farms back home,” KFB President Mark Haney said. “It is a very important trip that offers a time to have our voices of agriculture heard.”
Members also hear from representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation, to learn of national policy specifics and to ask questions regarding legislation that may affect the agriculture industry.
Ericka King, KFB’s Director of National Affairs said Farm Bureau carries a lot of clout with lawmakers when it comes to agricultural issues.
"Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees definitely lean on Farm Bureau because they understand that we have that knowledge that they really need," she said. "That's especially important in a farm bill year. Having spent time on the Hill, I know especially from the perspective of Kentucky's federal delegation, they listen to their constituents.”
Sarah Beth Guffey currently serves as chair of the KFB Generation Bridge Core Leadership Committee. This group represents a growing demographic of Farm Bureau members between the ages of 39 and 50 and is participating in leadership development, networking, communications, and opportunities within Farm Bureau membership and beyond.
She said opportunities to discuss issues with lawmakers are an excellent way for all generations within the Farm Bureau to be heard.
“It gives us a moment to have that voice, and face-to-face interaction with our Congressional leaders," Guffey said. "Just to have that ability to be here and to discuss those things is just monumentally important.”
This year marked the first in which the Generation Bridge Core Leadership Committee participated in the KFB Congressional Tour. Guffey noted the growth of this program in the state and beyond.
“We're really excited about the growth that we've seen just in the short timeframe and we’re seeing it across the state in individual counties and we’ve even seen interest from other states,” she said. “So, being a part of this tour allows those involved in this program to see new things and have new experiences to bring out those growth opportunities.”
In addition to the Farm Bureau connections, attendees heard from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley. In discussing trade issues with members, he said efforts are being made to find new markets for the country's agricultural products.
“It’s exciting when you think about how well American agriculture has been during all this turmoil, from the pandemic and supply chain disruptions and the war,” he said. “I was in Dubai (recently), and the message I heard was, ‘We want to strengthen our relationship with American agriculture. You are a reliable supplier, and we want to make sure that we have access to you and your products.’ So, we're getting amazing signs of strength, collaboration, and partnership from all of our trading partners.”
That’s good news for producers of all sizes including the smaller family farms that are so prevalent and important to the Kentucky ag industry.
“We're definitely expanding all of our programs and access to include all-size producers here in the United States and we've seen success stories of small family farms attending our trade missions and signed contracts on the ground, creating new business revenue for their farms, their families, and their communities,” Whitley said. “You could expect to see a broad outreach on trade. We're trying to capture those small producers, those who haven't been involved with us before, and let them know about these opportunities and bring them along on our programs.”
But foreign trade is open to the world and American producers face some stiff competition from other top-producing countries. The recent news that Brazil may top the U.S. in corn experts is one of those instances that prove how competitive the world market is. When asked about the Brazil corn crop, Whitley said he is not concerned.
“I think we've got a lot of time before everything is finalized with our planted acreage and our yield, and Brazil had a fantastic Q1; they had a huge crop, and that happens,” he said. “But in the cycle of what all happens in the marketing year of a crop, I think we'll see some balancing on the back half, but (I’m) not overly concerned right now.”
When speaking of the advantages that American agriculture has in the world market, Whitley said the answer to that is an easy one.
“It’s the acceptance of our science, technology, and innovation,” he said.
Haney said it is always good to get these kinds of updates for KFB members during the annual Congressional Tour.
“The more information we have, the better we can advocate for our industry and our rural communities,” he said. “And that is what this trip is all about. We learn so much which in turn makes us stronger advocates.”
The Senate Q&A
Each year, as part of the KFB Congressional Tour, members have the opportunity to hear from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul. This annual meeting has become as much of a tradition of the tour as the trip itself, and this year was no exception. The two make time in their busy schedules to meet with members during the traditional breakfast event as well as for an exclusive question and answer session.
"Thank you to members of the Kentucky Farm Bureau and their families who traveled to Washington. We have a big year ahead of us, and I'm looking forward to continuing the productive conversations from our Q&A session – particularly on the all-important Farm Bill," said Leader McConnell. "These visits are key to ensuring my team and I are delivering on the agricultural priorities of Kentucky's farmers and championing rural issues in our Nation's Capital."
Senator Paul said it was a pleasure to meet with members of the Kentucky Farm Bureau during the annual fly-in.
“Speaking directly with farmers is essential to understanding how much issues like farm labor and environmental regulation impact each and every American,” he said. “I will continue to advance legislation that addresses the concerns of the Kentucky Farm Bureau and ensures a stable, affordable food supply.”
Haney said it’s almost unheard of for other states to come to Washington and have the type of access to Leader McConnell and Senator Paul that KFB does.
“To see over 300 of our members gathered together in a room to have this opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns about our agriculture industry demonstrates how important our farm families are to these two exceptional government leaders,” he said.