I remember my first visit to Capitol Hill like it was yesterday.

I was six years old traipsing around the halls of the House and Senate office buildings, as my father tried to put my hair into a presentable-looking ponytail. I distinctively remember having my picture taken while standing on Sen. Kit Bond’s office chair, a photo my father kept in his office until his recent retirement. For this rural Missouri girl, even today, a trip to Washington, D.C. is truly a monumental event. There’s just something a little magical about our nation’s capital city.

Now, nearly 20 years later, I have the opportunity to visit with our legislators regularly about issues important to Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB) members. While on the Hill recently, I had the opportunity to visit with legislators and staff about Farm Bureau’s top priorities, including the upcoming Farm Bill.

The first Farm Bill was passed in 1933 as part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which sought to help farmers by boosting prices for crops. By 1938 Congress had permanently established the Farm Bill to be renewed every five years. Up until 1977, the Farm Bill focused mainly on support for commodity crops. That changed when nutrition programs, formerly known as food stamps, were included in the 1977 Food and Agriculture Act.

Believe it or not, it is already time for the House and Senate to come together again to write a Farm Bill that will serve farmers and ranchers for the next five years. Though originally intended to provide support to producers, the Farm Bill has grown to encompass several topics, including conservation, nutrition and research.

It is no surprise the Farm Bill contains provisions that are important to farmers and ranchers. One of the most important components of the legislation is crop insurance, which has historically been a target for funding cuts in tight budget situations like we face today. Maintaining funding levels for crop insurance continues to be one of MFB’s top priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill.

One of my favorite parts about visiting our Congressional delegation is the opportunity to share good news about things happening in Missouri. Equally as enjoyable is the opportunity to share knowledge about an issue that is important to agriculture that a legislator might not be familiar with. Missouri has a unique opportunity to share the message of agriculture from many different perspectives. Whether you hail from a part of the state that raises corn, soybeans, livestock, cotton or rice, you can be sure that Farm Bureau is hard at work sharing your message with our legislators.

Spencer Tuma, of Jefferson City, Mo. is director of national legislative programs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization

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