Agriculture is the lifeblood of our nation and a cornerstone of North Dakota’s economy. Because of the hard work and dedication by our farmers and ranchers, we lead the country in production of numerous products and grow or raise some of the highest quality commodities in the world. Our state is the nation’s top producer of many agriculture products including


, spring wheat, field peas,

dry edible beans

, flax, honey, and canola. Our state is also a leader in dozens of other commodities, from sugarbeets to potatoes to soybeans. Cattle outnumber people nearly 2-to-1.

If we are going to remain food and energy secure, we need to

pass a farm bill

. Whether growing beets in the Red River Valley or raising cattle near Killdeer, our producers need reliable policy to make the best decisions for their businesses. With input costs at record levels and volatile global markets, the multiyear farm bill helps stabilize the already risky agricultural economy.

Every five years, we have the opportunity to reopen our core agricultural policy and look at what works and what doesn’t. The best way to do that is to hear directly from the farmers and ranchers who are impacted by these programs. There is no substitute. Just this week, I heard from North Dakotans at

farm bill listening sessions

in Leeds and McKenzie to get a better sense of the challenges they face and to help formulate policy changes that reflects their reality, not the imagination of Washington bureaucrats.

What I hear from producers time and time again is keep what works, fix what needs fixing, and get burdensome government policies off the books. This means not harming policies that generally work, like

crop insurance

and the sugar program. Tweak existing programs by doing things like improving CRP flexibility, strengthening livestock disaster support, and requiring the establishment of a standard of identity for honey. Finally, we need to get the government out of the way, including by eliminating eternal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service easements.

I came to Congress right after the last farm bill was passed. Since then, it’s been a top priority of mine to get as much feedback as possible to make sure that North Dakota’s farm and ranch families have policies that work for them, not against them. At a time when much of the country thinks that food comes from the grocery store and electricity comes from the light switch, I’m more committed than ever to making sure our producers have the tools and flexibility to thrive. Farming and ranching are more than just businesses, they are a way of life.

(Armstrong, a Republican, is North Dakota’s lone representative in the House of Representatives.)

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