By Michele F. Mihaljevich
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) said his background in farming will be beneficial as he begins his new role as a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Rose, an 8th generation farmer from Cookeville, was appointed to the committee in mid-January. Rose is a former Tennessee agriculture commissioner and is serving his third term representing the state’s 6th congressional district.
He’s operated his family’s farm since the late 1990s but became involved in the farm at an early age.
“Like anything else in life, if you have first-hand experience in seeing how something works, that’s very helpful,” he noted. “I developed an early awareness of agriculture and the challenges farmers face. It’s a small business but also a way of life.”
For the last 15 years or so, the farm has been primarily a traditional cow-calf operation, Rose said. They also lease some land to others for row crops. The farm has been in the family since 1790.
“It is remarkable that it has stayed in the family,” he said. “It’s an honor and privilege to be the custodian of the farm. More so than any other profession, agriculture is dependent on the weather and Mother Nature, and the uncertainties it brings.”
Rose said he’s concerned about taxation and regulatory issues as they relate to agriculture. The estate tax, for example, makes it difficult to maintain his family’s legacy, he pointed out. He said he’d like to see the tax eliminated.
He would also like to see those in government, including USDA, help farmers succeed and comply with regulatory rules rather than serving as punishers when they misstep.
A big item on the agriculture committee’s agenda this year will be the next farm bill. “Getting the farm bill done will be a challenge,” Rose explained. “It always is. The 800-pound gorilla in the room is the debt, and the farm bill is expensive. There will be probably be a fight around nutrition and trying to get that under control. I’d like to try to put in common sense guardrails around the nutrition program.
“It’s important to keep the perspective of the linkage between farm programs and the nutrition program, which accounts for about 84-85 percent of the spending. We have to keep that in perspective.”
As for farm programs, Rose said the biggest issue is recognizing the high cost of inflation and addressing “how that is putting a price squeeze on farmers. We have to recognize that’s a real challenge to our producers. We have to make sure we’re taking into account input costs.
“The cost of the program is going to be an issue. We can’t ignore the debt. We have to be very frugal in how we deal with challenges.”
Rose said he expects a part of his job on the committee will be to help educate members with little or no farm background about such things as how farm bill programs work.
As for farmers, those he’s talked with mention broadband availability as a concern. They’ve also told him “they want to get government off their backs from a regulatory perspective and they want to be allowed to make production decisions as freely as possible.”
U.S. consumers enjoy the least expensive and most abundant food supply in history, he said. “We need to keep in mind that the industry of agriculture that produces all this bounty needs to be economically sustainable.”
In addition to working on the farm bill, the committee has a role in oversight over the administration and what it’s doing, Rose said. “We’ve got some work to do. We have to hold their feet to the fire and make sure (USDA and other government entities) are not stepping over the line.”
The committee should also spend some time addressing international concerns such as supply chain issues, he added.
The continuing education of the next generation of leaders is important to Rose.
“We need to make sure the next generation is ready to take over the mantle of leadership,” he said.
Rose will also serve on the House Financial Services Committee. He received a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness economics from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, a Master of Science in agricultural economics from Purdue University, and a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University.