What farmers really need

Rural America, the voters from farm and ranch country, were vital in the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. We liked the policies he proposed and the promises he made on the campaign trail.

His views for a long-term plan to bring viability back to rural America seemed to be in line with our own and something we had been looking for a long time.

Trump’s promises include a reduction in government oversight that would allow farmers to do what they do best—farm without continuous interference and regulatory nightmares from our own government. We wanted common-sense policies and regulations that supported our efforts to feed the world while looking out for the good of the land, the air, the water and the people.

What the American farmers were not looking for was a knee-jerk reaction to the continuous rhetoric of the main-stream media about the trade issues. We don’t want or need another government handout because we all know that somebody has to pay for those and ultimately it is us—the taxpayers. The recent announcement of a $12 billion government program to aid farmers hurt by the recent trade disputes is not at all in line with what we were hoping for from our new administration.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “This administration will not stand by while our hard-working agriculture producers bear the brunt of unfriendly and illegal tariffs enacted by other nations.” The $12 billion program is “directly in line” with an estimated $11 billion impact illegal tariffs are having on farmers, according to Perdue.

While many are split on whether this aid package, which dates back to Depression-era policy, is good or bad, most farmers definitely agree that we need trade not aid. If this short-term program can get us through the trade negotiations then it may be beneficial but ultimately what we need is the opportunity to level the playing field and get our products into the hands of the people who need them.

All this buzz about China has allowed people to take their eye off the ball in regard to trade negotiations and that is where we need to focus. We need to get busy renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement because Mexico and Canada are not only our neighbors but valuable trading partners. Our relationships are symbiotic—we both benefit from our ability to get goods and services back and forth across the borders. Neither country, nor its ag producers, wins when we are in a state of flux on these agreements.

The most dire trade issue we need to get nailed down is the fact that on Jan. 1, 2019, U.S. pork producers will be slapped with a tariff from the Japanese government that is a full 18 percent higher than what the European Union is forced to pay. This will make Danish pork much more appealing to the Japanese than our high quality pork products, thus sticking another knife into the already squealing pork industry. It is essential for us to come to a bilateral agreement on trade with Japan, as promised by the Trump campaign when we pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In my past two weeks of travel and speaking, I have had the opportunity to visit with a lot of concerned ag folks. I did share with them both the challenges and the long-term optimism that I am getting from inside the beltway. They need some reassurance that things are moving in the right direction and that we need to stay hopeful and hang on because like all good things, this too may require some waiting. Understandably there are some that can’t hang on much longer and we certainly need to get these deals worked out as soon as possible but ultimately what we really need is long term trade deals that will give us assurance into the future that the products we produce can get to the countries that want and need them without costing us an arm and a leg.

We need to make sure that our ag trade team is granted the time and opportunity to work out the details of these essential trade deals so we can ensure that farmers are fairly represented in the marketplace. While it’s good that we’ve stood up to the bullying that other countries were dishing out, now our trade experts need to get the green light to work their magic and get these bilateral agreements nailed down so we can go on doing what we do best in rural America—utilizing the bounty of our natural resources to provide for a global marketplace. If everybody does what they do best, this well-oiled machine should purr along just fine.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].