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01 April 2018 - Washington, Critical Decisions Must be Made

As I watch activity in Washington, D.C. this Spring, I see some attention being devoted to Agriculture but I am wondering - how much? There are two important actions to be dealt with in our nation’s Capitol as quickly as possible.

First of all, we need to complete re-negotiating NAFTA, The North American Free Trade Agreement, so we know what the rules will be for our agricultural exports and imports with our two major trading partners in North America. I keep hearing words of encouragement from various negotiators in the three countries, but not a lot of action as they get underway for their eighth session of talks this month.

Then, of course, we need the Farm Bill and we hear comments from members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees that we are making progress. But with Congress shutting down for the July 4th Holiday recess and then the annual month-long August recess, there is not a lot time for Congress to work on all the other legislation on its plate, plus a Farm Bill.

I know Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue continues to hold listening sessions with farmers and ranchers across the country to get input from them. This week he is doing his third “Back to Our Roots” RV Tour of America with stops in Michigan, Ohio & Kentucky to sit down with farmers and their organizations as well as agri-businesses to learn what works and what doesn’t work in the current bill.

In my mind, there is always the question of how much longer farmers and ranchers can get a farm bill in Congress, with fewer members representing large agricultural Districts. I think we can as long as we keep the SNAP program and other food assistance programs in the Bill and the USDA budget. I know many producers don’t like the idea of such a large chunk of the farm bill budget being charged to agriculture, but if it wasn’t, I don’t think we could pass a farm bill in Congress.

Right now, as we move into planting time, farmers are making decisions for two and three years down the road. They need to know what they are going to be dealing with in the future in U.S. Farm policy and trade policy. So, keep sending this message to Congress and our trade negotiators . . . Let’s get NAFTA renegotiated and let’s get a new Farm Bill written on time, this time.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.