U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall was the keynote speaker at the Annual State Republican General Election Kickoff that was held on the grounds of the State Fair on Thursday evening. Marshall, who was recently endorsed by President Donald Trump, is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas.


Although the fairgrounds remain empty, Marshall is hopeful he can help the Kansas State Fair and other fairs across the nation. Because state fairs had to close down or severely disrupt their schedule this year due to COVID-19, their profits are down. Many depend on the previous year’s revenue to help offset the next year.


"The Fair has an $80 million impact on the state of Kansas," Marshall said. "It’s a huge economic driver."


The best marketing for agriculture, Marshall said, are state fairs — whether they be in Maine, Minnesota or Kansas. He and a bipartisan group of representatives recently introduced a bill to help fairs, including the Kansas State Fair, get back on their feet again.


"(State fairs) are the closest connection many people from urban America have to rural America," he said. "Whether it’s watching a calf be born, seeing steers for the first time or looking at the butter sculpture."


Marshall, whose family owned a farm in Butler County while he was growing up, said he is committed to Kansas farmers and ranchers. Along with serving on the agriculture committee, he is dedicated to agriculture and making the lives of farmers and ranchers simpler.


"We need bilateral agreements. COVID slowed us down," he said. "We’ve renegotiated 55% of the agricultural agreements."


Talks are underway with several African countries, Brazil, the European Union, Great Britain and India.


Marshall is also concerned with how farmers and ranchers are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"Wheat got zero help with the first relief bill," he said. "Ranchers and livestock need more help."


As a physician, Marshall said he knows firsthand how to help others. He also wants to make sure, when localities think it is safe, that schools open up.


"As a doctor, every day I needed to talk to patients about benefits and risks," he said. "When I look at schools opening up there are benefits and risks. The benefits outweigh the risks."


Marshall urges each municipality to take precautions, including wearing a mask, but he said, there are benefits for in-person learning, including increased quality of education, psycho-social development and leadership opportunities.


"(During COVID), we had an uptick in child abuse," Marshall said.


When teachers are able to see students in person, they are able to ascertain whether there might be issues at home. Children are also provided with meals at school. In addition, Marshall said, schools are the economic driver of the community.


"We’re not going to have normal until we get our kids back in school," he said. "For young adults and children, the complications from the seasonal flu are worse than from COVID."


For Marshall, the message of his campaign is hope. He said by this fall, all nursing homes should have 15 minute point-of-care testing.


"We are beating this virus with American innovation and hard work," he said. "I’m asking Kansans to stand tall, respect the virus and win this war."