What’s ahead for agriculture in 2018?

If you thought 2017 was a big year for news and controversies streaming out of Washington, hang on to your hat for another wild ride in 2018.

In the near term, look for continued fights over how to fund the federal government, along with ongoing battles over immigration, health care and national security.

The current continuing resolution runs through Jan. 19. Among the issues yet to be resolved is how to deal with those citizens who were hit hard by hurricanes and wildfires.

The House passed a disaster bill that includes aid to producers who lost crops and orchards to the hurricanes, plus new farm bill assistance for cotton and dairy producers. Senate Democrats are insisting on changes to the bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s ranking member, Debbie Stabenow, wants to include reforms to dairy’s Margin Protection Program.

Democrats are also pushing hard for legislation granting legal status and a path to citizenship for about 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, known as “dreamers.” The Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will expire on March 5—unless Congress acts first.

But there will likely have to be a few tradeoffs. President Donald Trump is also pushing just as hard for a wall along the Mexican border. He recently tweeted:

“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed wall at the southern border and an end to the horrible chain migration & ridiculous lottery system of immigration etc. We must protect our country at all cost.”

Before March, Congress will also have to raise the federal debt ceiling and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing negotiations over trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea trade agreement.

The Trump administration is scheduled to begin negotiations with South Korea this week on potential modifications to the U.S.-Korea trade agreement.

Michael Beeman, the assistant U.S. trade representative for Japan, Korea and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, will meet in Washington soon with a Korean delegation led by Myung-hee Yoo, director general from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Implementation of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement on March 15, 2012, immediately removed duties on two-thirds of U.S. agricultural trade and the country is now our sixth largest market in terms of agriculture exports, topping $6.2 billion in 2016, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Even more is at stake in the NAFTA renegotiations. Under NAFTA, American food and agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico grew by 450 percent. In 2015, the United States held a 65 percent market share for agriculture products in the NAFTA region, and in 2016, we exported nearly $43 billion worth of food and agriculture goods to Canada and Mexico, making our NAFTA partners the largest export consumers of U.S. agriculture, according to a letter that agricultural groups sent to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last fall.

Top officials from the U.S., Mexico and Canada will meet in late January for a sixth round of NAFTA talks.

Back on the domestic front, President Donald Trump is gearing up to deal with our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure in 2018.

“At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country,” he tweeted recently.

Later this month, the White House is expected to unveil key principles of Trump’s infrastructure vision, providing lawmakers with the basic structure for what he hopes will be the basis for his next big legislative victory.

“Infrastructure is by far the easiest. People want it—Republicans and Democrats,” Trump said after signing the tax bill in the Oval office.

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In the past, the Trump administration has proposed a public/private partnership model to rebuild deteriorating roads, bridges, railways, locks and dams. But Democrats have criticized that concept, suggesting it will lead to more tollways in urban areas and significant gaps in funding for rural areas.

If this wasn’t a lengthy enough agenda, the current farm bill expires at the end of the 2018 fiscal year and both chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are itching to get a new bill written and signed into law as soon as possible.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway has repeatedly said he wants to start on marking up a new farm bill in committee and advancing it through the House in early 2018.

Timing will be key, given that there are so many things on the legislative “to do” list. If the farm bill timeline slides by more than a couple of months, passage may be even more problematic. By mid-summer, every member of the House and dozens of senators will be focused on spending even more time in their respective states and districts—gearing up for their November re-elections.

Editor’s note: Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant can be reached at www.agri-pulse.com.