U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., addressed Congress’ farm bill and President Donald Trump’s trade policies Thursday at a Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce event.
Roberts met with Chamber members at the Clarion Inn, the first of two Chamber-organized federal legislative updates this month. Congressman Roger Marshall will attend a public community coffee at the Clarion Inn Tuesday to discuss national issues affecting Finney County and Garden City.
Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, discussed the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill, which was passed by a wide margin in June, but still faces a conference committee with the House of Representatives in September. Passing the farm bill in both houses was “the paramount issue,” Roberts said, so farmers, ranchers and any other workers connected to agriculture could have structure and protection to do their jobs.
“Regardless of what happens with this trade policy or what happens with the weather, or Mother Nature, we will have crop insurance, we will have the protection of those programs that are in the farm bill. So that farmer can ... say ‘I’m fine. Well, I’m not fine but I can make to next year,’” Roberts said.
Roberts often cited President Donald Trump’s policies, particularly tariffs, and his experience working with the president.
“I respect the president,” Roberts said. “I used to be ‘Farm Guy,’ and then it became Senator Roberts, and now I’m Pat … He called me ‘Farm Guy’ again at the last meeting.”
Roberts said he understood Trump’s strategies, but was frank about the trade war’s impact on Kansas’ agricultural industry. He said retaliation from other countries was adversely affecting and often hurting “every crop” in the country.
“I appreciate what the president’s trying to do. He said he wants to protect farmers and propose a $12 billion aid program. We don’t want aid. We want trade. But we’re in a situation now where we’ll take the aid,” Roberts said.
He said he and his staff were working on the logistics for the aid program.
The Senate Finance Committee, Agriculture Committee, individual senators and farming organizations have expressed concern with the country’s trade environment, Roberts said, and several senators have proposed legislation that would, “curtail the activities of the president to the degree that (the Senate) would be consulted first.”
Roberts said he was wary of the precedent such legislation would set.
“I’m a little concerned about it, but I’m also concerned the fact that we have to tell the president constantly ‘It’d be an awful good thing if we didn’t have to settle, and it’d be a very good thing if we would rejoin the (Trans-Pacific Partnership) countries’ … That would represent a big deal for national security, as well as economic activity. But he wants to do it one at a time, so we’re doing it one at a time, and we’ll see what happens,” Roberts said.
Roberts answered questions from Chamber members in attendance, saying both political parties were facing challenges and fractures.
“Every week, there’s something new with regards to the Trump administration. I can’t control that, so I’m focusing on the farm bill. I focused on the tax bill. I focused on the issues that affect your daily lives … and if we do that and we do a good job, that’s what it’s all about,” Roberts said.
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