Roberts receives historic senate appointment
Upon being chosen to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, U.S. Senator and Holton High School alumnus Pat Roberts has made history as the first person to hold the top agriculture post in both chambers of Congress.
Roberts was named to lead the Senate committee on Thursday and announced an “aggressive schedule” of agriculture-related work to kick off his fourth Senate term. He replaces former chairperson Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has held the position for the past four years, and he held the same position as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1997.
As chariman of the Agriculture Committee, Roberts’ responsibilities will include oversight of U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and policies and further hearings on Farm Bill implementation, it was reported. The committee will also work on reauthorization of laws dealing with commodity trading, child nutrition, school meal programs and grain inspection.
“I am honored to work for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Roberts said. “I look forward to an aggressive schedule with hearings providing much needed oversight of our farm programs, school meals, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency. I am humbled to serve as chairman and will continue to be a champion for rural Kansas.”
Roberts said that with production agriculture facing “a daunting challenge” in attempting to feed a burgeoning global population, his aim is to ensure that the federal government is “an ally, not an adversary,” in meeting that challenge.
“I will fight to ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to advance American agriculture,” he said. “I will fight barriers to trade opportunities and regulations that threaten our producers’ competitiveness. And I will continue my work to maintain the security of our food supply and ensure science based regulations govern our food and agriculture sectors.”
He will continue to work with Stabenow as the Senate ag committee’s ranking member, citing his history with her in “working together on the Agriculture and Finance committees, and I know we will again make a great team for American agriculture.” Other U.S. Senators joining the committee include Ben Sasse (R-Neb), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), it was reported.
Roberts’ historic appointment to the position was lauded by state government and agriculture leaders. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback called Roberts’ selection “good news for Kansas farmers and ranchers.”
“Pat Roberts understands the importance of agriculture to our great state and will work tirelessly to make sure that the federal government does not get in the way of farm families who are working to produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world,” Brownback said.
The news was also welcomed by Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey, who said he looks forward to working with Roberts on agriculture issues that are important to Kansans in the field.
“There are a number of pressing concerns for those in agriculture, including the on-going pressure of excess regulation from various agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency,” McClaskey said. “It is great to have Senator Roberts in this leadership position advocating for our state’s largest industry.”
Also commenting on the appointment was Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts, stating that the senator has been “a champion for crop insurance, steered trade deals through Congress and has fought damaging regulations that would cripple Kansas agriculture.”
During his time as the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, then-Congressman Roberts worked to reform outdated federal farm policies and the federal food stamp programs. Now as leader of the Senate’s ag committee, Roberts said he plans to continue to question the EPA on issues that he considers “detrimental” to farmers and ranchers, including duplicative pesticide permitting under FIFRA and the proposed change to the Waters of the U.S. definitions.
Roberts has served on the Senate ag committee since his election to the Senate in 1997, working to get reforms to the federal crop insurance program passed in 2000 and calling for a more aggressive U.S. trade policy, especially concerning keeping overseas markets open for U.S. beef exports. He was the ranking member of the Senate ag committee from 2011 to 2013 under Stabenow.
Prior to Roberts, the last Kansan to hold the ranking member post of the Senate ag committee was Sen. Robert J. Dole, who held the post from 1975 to 1978. Prior to that, U.S. Sen. Arthur Capper (R-Kan.) served as ranking member from 1943 to 1947, before chairing the committee from 1947 to 1949. Sen. James Lane (R-Kan.) was the first Kansan to serve as chairman in 1863.
In addition to the top Republican spot on Agriculture, Roberts will continue to work as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, the Rules Committee and the Ethics Committee, it was reported. He is a member of the Holton High School class of 1954.