As the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the 2018 farm bill on Wednesday, a great cheer rose from farms and ranches across America. Maybe they couldn’t hear it inside the House chamber, but here in farm country, the sound was deafening. It was the early Christmas gift farmers had hoped for and Congress delivered just in time.
The global unfair trade practices that hurt American farmers and ranchers every day aren’t exactly state secrets, despite claims by opponents of agriculture who blindly argue that they don’t really exist or matter.
By this point, we are all exhausted by the endless rhetoric about America being a divided nation – a country of haves and have-nots. But, we think it’s important right now to explore this concept of division a little further. We’re not talking about partisan sniping. We’re talking about moisture and weather.
Selling more U.S. farm product overseas is the most important issue for farmers this time around – outranking even the war on terror, deficit reduction and healthcare. Not far behind on the list was passing the new Farm Bill, which was more important to farm voters than rural job creation, infrastructure improvements, immigration and lowering taxes.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump and his trade team announced a modernized trade pact with Mexico and Canada, and most of agriculture cheered. But it was a comment about another country during the White House press conference that really caught our attention. India is “the tariff king,” the President said. “India charges tariffs of 100 percent … that’s not free trade.”
America’s struggling farm economy is heading for even bigger declines, according to recent surveys, and the nation’s top bankers say manufacturers should expect a major drop in sales of new equipment. Inflation-adjusted net farm income, which is a broad measure of profits, is expected to be down by $11.4 billion, or nearly 15 percent, this year compared to 2017, according to USDA’s August Farm Income Forecast.
As the 2018 Farm Bill debate plays out in Congress, farmers across the nation are getting in front of the camera to tell their stories with the hopes that lawmakers will understand just how important a strong farm policy is to rural America.
August is typically a down time in DC, but that has not been the case this year. Among other things, lots of work was being done on the Farm Bill.
Summer is just about over, and Labor Day on the horizon signals that harvest is near. That means, it’s time to go to work. Farmers are watching Washington, D.C. as lawmakers return to finish some important Farm Bill business.
Following a relatively smooth markup in the Senate Agriculture Committee, the Farm Bill now moves to the Senate floor for consideration, and congressional leaders intend to have debate wrapped up before Independence Day.
When the Senate overwhelmingly passed its Farm Bill – just days after the House did the same – applause from the agricultural community was swift and loud. The bill, once reconciled in conference, will provide some economic certainty and help mitigate farm risk.
When Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill in 2007 that would have gutted U.S. farm policy and put American jobs at risk, the outcry from the agricultural community was swift and fierce. A campaign backed by farmers quickly labeled their plan “Kinda Flakey” and highlighted the disastrous effects it would have on commodities and rural communities from coast to coast.
It’s been a lively Farm Bill season, with a slew of anti-farmer amendments going down in flames. But one of farm policy’s most vocal opponents has been conspicuously quiet…until now. The Environmental Working Group came roaring back this week with a new “study” that – true to form – breaks no new ground and is largely a recycling of old irrelevant data.
Prices and farm incomes are in the tank. Ongoing international trade talks are affecting overseas markets. Congress is debating a Farm Bill that will determine growers’ ability to mitigate risk. Mother Nature is wreaking havoc across the country – with farmers in the Great Plains facing drought and southern growers getting pounded by rain.
In our view, this kind of open, honest debate beats the sneaky subterfuge of some past farm bill debates where pernicious amendments to gut U.S. farm policy have masqueraded as “reforms” in order to confuse the debate. The Heritage Foundation has made it perfectly clear that it opposes any safety net whatsoever for America’s farmers or ranchers because Heritage denies any unique risks to farming and ranching.
A Farm Policy Facts writer was in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota yesterday, visiting with sugarbeet farmers who are planting this year’s crop. Farmers there are worried. Worried about the weather, which delayed planting. Worried about the markets, which have been slow to recover after Mexico illegally dumped subsidized surpluses here and…
Farmers in West Texas and other parts of the Great Plains would love to be busier planting right now, but they’re having to reconsider because the ground is so dry it could destroy the seeds.
It’s a busy time to be a farmer. Many are in their fields planting, or preparing to do so. They are literally “covering the ground” – cultivating roughly 300 million acres and preparing crops to be harvested in the fall to feed and clothe the world.
U.S. flagged vessels headed for China made an abrupt U-turn last month and headed for new ports. It wasn’t the weather that forced the change of course, but rather the contents in the ships’ hulls. Although the cargo involved is relatively small in the overall scope of agricultural trade, it did send off alarm bells for farmers who are depending on exports to lift them out of a slumping rural economy marked by low commodity prices.
How does the bill “modernize” sugar policy? It mandates that the U.S. Department of Agriculture invite heavily subsidized foreign imports into the U.S., artificially depressing farmer prices and rewarding bad actors abroad. Worse yet, the bill denies sugar producers the basic non-recourse loans available to other commodities, meaning failure to repay would result not just in the loss of crops pledged as collateral but in total bankruptcy.
The Farm Bill debate is officially underway with the House Agricultural Committee marking up H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, this week. Members of Congress have heard from growers and business owners over the last several months in listening sessions, during personal visits and in opinion pieces published in newspapers across the nation.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal revealed a rarely-discussed phenomenon of farmers being forced to take second and even third jobs as they try to keep their family farms afloat.
Congress passed the first Farm Bill to help real Old MacDonalds who were struggling during the Great Depression. And lawmakers revisit the bill about every 5 years because, in contrast to the nursery rhyme, Old MacDonalds must constantly evolve with new tools, technologies and techniques to meet new challenges.
America enjoys the most affordable, widely available food supply in the history of mankind for about one-quarter of 1% of the federal budget. That’s why it’s so odd that organizations dedicated to defending taxpayers spend so much time focused on gutting farm policy.
Displays of bipartisanship are an increasingly rare sight in Washington these days, but when it comes to prioritizing the need for strong farm policies during difficult times, Agriculture Committee leadership appear to be on the same page.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, last week, released projections that farm incomes will continue to fall in 2018 and will hit their lowest point in the past dozen years.
America’s largest farms are far less risky than smaller operations and typically have fewer crop insurance claims, according to a new working paper from top agricultural economists.
Approximately 100 Hill staffers attended a pair of briefings this week that closely examined and debunked a number of farm policy criticisms leveled by the Heritage Foundation and other anti-farmer organizations.
According to the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2017 was the year of the “fire rooster,” which is also associated with the elements of gold and earth. It was fitting considering all the foreign farm subsidies that were doled out.
American agriculture will take center stage in the national discussion next week when President Trump addresses Farm Bureau members in Nashville, Tennessee.