Written by Senator Mike Johanns
Our country faces pressing budget challenges in the year ahead. Members of the agriculture committees in both houses of Congress will keep this in mind as we work to renew the farm bill, last updated in 2008. Funding for some programs in the bill is likely to be reduced, as lawmakers search for viable ways to pare back government spending while maintaining authority for the framework of policies which have led to a strong farm economy in recent years.
Along with these budget concerns, it is critically important to keep the significance of ag programs in perspective to ensure any reductions do not spark unintended consequences. In the case of the farm bill, we must remember that food security is an issue of national security; hasty or careless changes to farm-related initiatives in the areas of trade and development could have a negative effect on our standing abroad and security at home.
Our farmers and ranchers provide the food, feed, fiber, and fuel for a rapidly growing global population. Most Americans take safe, affordable food for granted, but many people in developing countries wake up every day wondering how they will eat.
For this reason our country is viewed as heroic in many developing parts of the world. In these regions political instability is often limited because of our leading role in ensuring some of the food we have in abundance reaches them. I have seen this firsthand as Secretary of Agriculture and now as a U.S. Senator. We cannot sacrifice this leadership.
The 19th and 20th centuries were defined by international conflicts among global powers. In the 21st century, our national security has been threatened from new areas in which poverty and resource scarcity often drives people to radicalism and violence. There are dark, radical forces around the world eager to provide the hungry and vulnerable with enough food to eat in exchange for their allegiance to anti-American beliefs and causes. Sustaining and expanding our agricultural and trade relationships is a diplomatic tool to foster relationships and achieve lasting stability and security.
There are many difficult budget decisions to be made, and certainly all aspects of federal spending should be scrutinized as we appropriately look to address our country's mounting debt. Yet we must also be thoughtful in making changes to trade and development programs in order to make responsible decisions that don't do more harm than good.
We have a very important role to play as our world's population continues to grow. This role encompasses not only agriculture at home but security abroad. Any decisions we make must appropriately take this into account.
U.S. Senator Mike Johanns represents the state of Nebraska and serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Prior to his election to the United States Senate in 2009, Johanns served as the 28th Secretary of Agriculture (2005-2007) and Governor of Nebraska (1999-2005.)