In a recent Focus on Agriculture column, the 2013 farm bill and Farm Bureau were compared hand-in-hand as “lone rangers” in the political arena. Recently, Congress drafted the farm bill amidst a decline in federal funding, and Farm Bureau offered a financially responsible proposal that would provide a measure of equity across crop sectors while also assisting farmers with weather and market-related problems.
Farm Bureau is also in favor of: strengthening crop insurance; offering farmers a choice of program options to complete their “safety net;”and programs that encourage farmers to follow market signals versus making planting decisions based on government payments. Currently, U.S. farmers already receive higher amounts of their gross incomes from the marketplace rather than from government supports compared to other nations, which is shocking to many.
With budget cuts in full swing, it is not a far cry from reality that America’s farmers and ranchers will not receive the same level of government support that they have in previous years. Farm Bureau’s farm bill proposal seeks to use the limited resources that are available while protecting our nation’s food producers – as only a general farm organization can do. It will be up to Congress to go to bat for the lone ranger before the current farm bill expires in September.
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I have read several articles about Free Trade Agreements and their impact to agriculture. Recent bi-partisan progress on the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea had raised my hope that the FTA’s would be passed before the August recess.
Passage of these Free Trade Agreements is what hog farmers, like my family, have been asking Congress for. When our feed and fuel costs dramatically increased over the last four years, hog farmers didn’t ask Congress for anything more than opening up new markets for our pork products by passing these FTA’s. If Congress would pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTA’s it would generate more than $770 million in additional pork exports annually, causing live-hog prices to increase by $11.35 and creating more than 10,200 direct pork industry jobs.
So what is the hold up you might ask? Your guess is as good as mine but here is a little insight I found on the topic. In a recent interview with AgriTalk Radio, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Colin Peterson, (D-Minn.), cites Republican objections to the Trade Adjustment Assistance retraining program sought by the Obama administration as a part of the trade pact. Peterson also cites a labor agreement in Colombia as a stumbling block for the trade deals.
What shouldn’t be overlooked in all of this is who is gaining market access with these countries while Congress is busy stalling. Competing countries are rushing to sign agreements with South Korea for market access. These countries include Canada, Australia and Europe. The USA is falling behind in trade because Congress isn’t acting. Once we lose the opportunity to have access to these markets, it will be very tough to gain access.
Passage of these FTA’s will benefit rural and urban communities with new dollars in our economy and new jobs in our communities. We should be looking ahead to the next generation when we think about FTA’s. Losing market access today is not a positive sign for future generations. We need to pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTA’s immediately. It’s time for Congress to stop stalling and start acting.