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Sen. Roberts on Retirement: ‘I Just Think It’s Time’

Senator Pat Roberts, Senate Ag Chair, to retire after current term.

Less than three weeks after President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, one of the Farm Bill’s chief architects announced he will not seek reelection when his current term expires.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), said that after his term is up in 2020, he will retire from a Congressional career that began in 1980 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in Kansas’ largely agricultural First District, for which he served eight terms; and culminated in a 24-year career as U.S. Senator from Kansas.

Roberts, 82, announced his intentions in Manhattan, Kansas, which is home to both his alma mater – Kansas State University – and one of his signature accomplishments, the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), which will eventually replace the nation’s premier biosecurity level 4 animal research facility on Plum Island in New York.

With his wife, Franki, at his side, Roberts said the deciding factor was the successful passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in an increasingly partisan Congress.

“I just think it’s time,” Roberts said to a group of friends, staff members, and media members during a press conference at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “I think one thing that happens to you, is when you’re able to get a historic vote in in the Senate, and 87 votes for a Farm Bill – that’s unheard of... when you achieve something like that, I don’t think you can top it.”

Roberts said he will continue to “fight to the finish” of his term.

“We have urgent work to do on our nation’s trade policy. It is a top priority,” he says. “We will oversee how USDA implements the new farm bill to make sure it is working for our farmers and ranchers.”

The 2018 version was Roberts’ eighth farm bill. He is the only person to chair both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and has served as ranking member of both.

He also has chaired six committees: House Agriculture Committee; the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats; Senate Ethics Committee; Senate Intelligence Committee; Senate Agriculture Committee; and Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

In addition to the Senate Agriculture Committee, Roberts currently serves on the Senate Committee on Finance; the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; the Senate Select Committee on Ethics; and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Chairman-Roberts-2018
Bill Spiegel

Roberts is the longest serving member of Congress in the history of the state of Kansas. He is undefeated in 24 elections – of which he says, “I’m damn proud of that.”

A native of Holton, Kansas, Roberts attended KSU, where he earned a journalism degree and worked for newspapers in Kansas and Arizona. He served in the Marine Corps for four years, and joined the staff of U.S. Senator Frank Carlson (R-KS) in 1967, and administrative assistant to First District U.S. Congressman Keith Sebelius (R-KS) in 1969.  

Among his constituents, Roberts is known for his keen wit. When asked who might consider running for his open seat in 2020, he joked, “I just had a pretty long talk with Bob Dole. He says he may consider it.”

McConnell’s Statement

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised Roberts’ work on behalf of America’s farmers. “He led the charge on passing comprehensive legislation to give agricultural communities the certainty they need, notching big victories as recently as just last year.

“Tirelessness and effectiveness have defined Pat Roberts’s other important work, as well – from his years leading the Intelligence Committee to this proud Marine’s advocacy for his fellow veterans and those currently serving in uniform. The Senate will miss the senior Senator from Kansas. But we’re glad his departure is two years away. My colleagues and I are happy to be entering the 116th Congress with Pat Roberts still on the field.”

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