As we celebrate our nation this 4th of July, many of us come together over a plate (or two, no judgement) of food, a few fireworks and the spirit of freedom. That is, if you’re not in a combine cutting wheat.

While troops battle for our freedom around the globe, farmers and ranchers are in a different kind of battle. The battle with weather, markets, misconceptions and fewer lawmakers with an understanding of agriculture. This is where Kansas Farm Bureau and its members step in and step up to defend agriculture and the livelihood of our state’s farmers and ranchers.

I am proud to serve Kansas Farm Bureau’s members as president of the organization. If you aren’t a member but want to support our state’s providers of food, fuel and fiber, please join here. You don’t have to have Farm Bureau insurance or be a farmer to be a member.

The farm bill isn’t just for farmers

Just like a membership to Kansas Farm Bureau isn’t just for farmers, passing the 2018 farm bill doesn’t only affect farmers. Granted, we know its importance to agriculture is profound because it strengthens crop insurance, ensures an adequate safety net for farmers and ranchers and includes conservation programs, it is also an important piece of legislation for all Americans.

Since only 2 percent of the U.S. population farms, it is essential to protect our food production system. The farm bill helps keep grocery bills affordable, helps pay for federal research to keep food products abundant, healthy and safe, helps pay for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for struggling Americans and so much more.

We're pleased the full Senate moved swiftly on debate and passed the farm bill last Thursday by a vote of 86-11, putting us one step closer to certainty after the House passed their version on June 21st with a vote of 213-211. We are fortunate to have delegation who is supportive of the number one industry in Kansas and support the 2018 farm bill. Their leadership and commitment to farmers and ranchers is essential to getting the farm bill passed.

Connecting Kansas – Because you deserve it

As our country has progressed from its adoption of the Declaration of Independence, there have been many changes and improvements that help make farming and ranching more efficient. Electricity in the country, for example, was a major step in the right direction for those of us who choose rural living. We should not go without everyday essentials just because of where we choose to live and work. One of those essentials now is reliable cell phone coverage.

While coverage maps indicate there is virtually full coverage by at least one cell phone carrier in every corner of the state, we know this isn’t the case from our experience with dropped calls and slow downloading and uploading speeds in areas of our state. 

The FCC is providing $4.53 billion in support over 10 years to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service.

That is why Kansas Farm Bureau requested and received a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to perform speed tests throughout the state to prove there is a lack of reliable cell phone coverage in several areas.

Every Kansan deserves high-speed cell phone service. For rural areas, this would create a better connection to emergency services, advances in opportunities for education and entrepreneurship and increased efficiencies for farmers and ranchers to use precision agriculture.

We’ve asked Kansans to help us prove the coverage maps aren’t correct by participating in speed tests. Please visit this website to learn how you can help get the coverage you deserve.

Celebrating our Centennial 

Celebrating 242 years of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence this July 4th makes me also reflect on the history of Farm Bureau. At this year’s annual meeting, Dec. 2-4, we’ll celebrate 100 years as an organization. Just as America has, we’ve gone through ups and downs but have gotten up more times than we’ve been down. That’s because of you – the members of this organization. Our members have spoken up against potential laws that would negatively affect the business of farming, and we’ve celebrated when we are successful in legislation that helps our noble business move forward.

More information about this special annual meeting will come out throughout the rest of the year and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with you in December.

While we honor our nation’s independence, let’s remember to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served, are serving or will serve our country. And as you’re enjoying that second helping of barbecue, take a second to appreciate the safe, wholesome food supply in America provided by farmers and ranchers.

Wherever you find yourself this Independence Day, please join me in celebrating our nation's freedom and heritage. Happy 4th of July!