K-State grad Rep. Roger Marshall takes agriculture, medical expertise to capital

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Rep. Roger Marshall was sworn in as Kansas's first district representative on Jan. 3, 2017. (Photo Courtesy of Roger Marshall)

A fifth-generation farmer, physician and Kansas State graduate had an eventful first few weeks as a representative in the nation’s capital, spotlighted by a viral photo of the dab.

Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, caught the attention of national news and social media when his 17-year-old son dabbed during a photo op commemorating the congressman’s swearing-in on Jan. 3.

“Because of that, 7 million people looked at CNN in 24 hours and saw that photo, and I have a feeling most of those people didn’t even know there was a swearing-in ceremony going in,” Marshall said. “So we looked at it like bringing millennials into politics in our country.”

“What I’ve learned is don’t underestimate the power of social media,” Marshall continued. “I’ve learned that I couldn’t believe how judgmental some people are. It was a photo op, it wasn’t the official swearing-in … it was not disrespectful, it was done as fun.”

Serving the public, K-State

Marshall, a 1982 K-State graduate in biochemistry, was in Manhattan on Thursday to speak at a Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense at the K-State Student Union. He spoke with the Collegian for 15 minutes Thursday morning.

He said his favorite memories of K-State were working as a bartender at Kite’s and watching Rolando Blackman and “Big” Ed Nealy play basketball under coach Jack Hartman at Ahearn Field House with his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers.

Marshall will serve on the House of Representatives Agriculture and Science and Technology committees, both of which he said are important to K-State.

“It’s great we have a voice back on the House Ag Committee, so as we start the new farm bill, we’re going to have a voice from day one,” Marshall said.

Marshall said his experience with cattle feeding operations and agriculture-based banking helps him understand the business side of agriculture.

“I understand what it’s like when a farmer loses a great wheat crop a day before harvest due to a hail storm,” Marshall said. “I understand that you’re not going to get an ag loan at a bank without crop insurance. I understand the importance of crop insurance, which will be the center and backbone of any future farm bill.”

Marshall said his position on the research sub-committee of the Science and Technology committee will be beneficial to K-State.

“When we try to figure out where to send funding, I may have a voice in that,” Marshall said.

Agriculture

Marshall said he will use his experiences from his farm upbringing, involvement in a cattle feeding operation and his board membership of Farmer’s Bank and Trust when serving on the Agriculture Committee.

Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has taken several controversial actions toward the Environmental Protection Agency, including gag orders and freezing grants and contracts, among other actions.

“I certainly agree that the EPA was making it very hard to do business, that there was significant EPA overreach,” Marshall said. “… I certainly care about our environment, but I would tell you that the airs that we breathe in Kansas and the waters of Kansas are cleaner than when I was growing up. I want to keep going in that direction.”

The freeze on EPA grants and contracts may affect K-State research. In August 2016, the EPA awarded K-State a $750,000 grant to study air quality in Chicago.

“Sometimes it is good to just pause and freeze things when you don’t know what’s going (on) and which direction we’re going,” Marshall said. “Sometimes I do think it is good to just say, ‘Let’s just catch our breath here until we sort it all out.'”

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, sued the government agency 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“I would sure like to think that at the end of the day, when we get the new EPA secretary in there, that he will be able to look at some issues like this, like the research grant issue, and sort out the good from the bad — sorting the wheat from the shaft,” Marshall said.

“I don’t agree with all of it, but I certainly agree with reigning in the EPA,” Marshall continued.

Trump ended U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, a move that several agriculture experts say will hurt Kansas exports.

“I disagree with President Trump on this issue,” Marshall said. “TPP would have been great for Kansas agriculture. The good news, though, is President Trump is very committed to doing bilateral trade agreements with these same countries. And at the end of the day, we hope it’s an even better agreement for the United States.”

In addition to signing new trade agreements that will benefit Kansas, Trump will also enforce the current trade agreements, Marshall said.

“The good news is also that Trump will make sure that we’re enforcing our current trade agreements,” Marshall said. “I feel like right now China and Brazil in particular are manipulating those trade agreements and putting our American farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage.”

Health Care

Marshall is an OB-GYN and served as Chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital. He said he favors repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in two separate bills.

“We couldn’t do it all in one bite,” Marshall said. “There’s no way to get it through the Senate in one step, so it’s a two-step process of repeal and replace. But I will guarantee you that I’ve been working with Dr. Tom Price (R-Georgia) and other physicians in Congress for over a year and they have been working on this solution for seven or eight years.”

Marshall said no one will lose their insurance from the Affordable Care Act exchange with a repeal of the health care law.

“We’re going to make sure that you have a transition period and an opportunity for a better health care product than you currently have,” Marshall said. “The average deduction now for an exchange policy is $6,000 … it is just impossible for most people. The ACA did not work, eight out of 10 Americans do not like it, so we have to go a different direction.”

Marshall said he would like a new health care law to have high-risk pools that would be partially funded by the federal government. He also supports expanding Health Savings Accounts, permitting insurers to sell policies across state borders, addressing skyrocketing pharmacy prices and reforming malpractice tort.

“Beyond that, I want to force as much of it as I can — of policy— back to the state level,” Marshall said. “The federal government does a horrible job of managing health care, so we want free market policy that forces competition that keeps the patient and physician at the center of decision-making.

“We need more transparency of outcomes as well as price, and that’s what’s going to force the competitiveness and drive supply and demand economies,” Marshall continued.

Under the Affordable Care Act, adults age 26 and younger may stay on their parents’ plans. Marshall said he expects that to stay the same under any new health care laws.

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Jason Tidd
Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.