Breakfast for more than 100 Alabama farmers visiting the nation's capitol Wednesday included a side order of politics and humor from Sen. Pat Roberts, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Roberts, a Kansas Republican, told members attending the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual Washington Legislative Conference their visit to Washington, D.C. is important.
"We need your help in getting this (farm bill) over the goal line, and I know you in Alabama know how to get over the goal line," Roberts said in reference to the state's college football prowess.
"It will be critically important for you to remind legislators, both in the House and Senate, of the sacrifices that agriculture has already made in terms of the budget."
Reducing the budget should take policy into consideration, Roberts said, referring to the new farm bill Congress is now drafting.
"When you're cutting the budget, you don't have to do it with a Lizzie Borden meat ax," he said. "You can use a scalpel, and then take a look at it and see what you've done and what you've done to policy. But a meat ax-approach is really very counterproductive."
Roberts also reminded farmers their job is vital to national security. Farmers are the best at sharing their own stories, he said.
"I am committed to spreading the word about the good work you all are doing, but the fact of the matter is there is no better spokesperson for agriculture than you, and we're going to need your help," Roberts said.
"Show me a country that can't sustain its food supply and I'll show you a country in chaos. Just look at the Middle East if you don't believe it's true."
Other speakers for the morning included Washington attorney Gary Baise, who discussed the over-reaching power of the Environmental Protection Agency and the negative impact it has on farming and John Anderson, senior economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), who discussed the general budget proposals in the farm bill.
The Alabama farmers also heard from speakers about AFBF public policy and conservation programs.
This morning, Federation members are having breakfast breakout sessions with their respective U.S. Representatives. Later today, farmers will hear from U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.