When most people talk about the farm bill, they look at some of the biggest portions of the legislation like the nutrition title, the commodities title or crop insurance. But within the $867 billion of funding in the farm bill "pie," there is another much smaller slice of funding that has been making a big difference for a lot of farmers and the rural communities where they live.
Farmers and ranchers have been anxiously watching the Trump Administration go back and forth with our top two trading partners — Mexico and Canada — to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, while bearing the brunt of retaliatory tariffs. Now, it looks like there is some very positive news — at least for two of the three countries. President Donald Trump said the U.S. and Mexico resolved key obstacles to a renegotiated NAFTA — with a different name — while suggesting that Canada may be left out of a final agreement.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials announced last month that the agency planned to help farmers hard hit by trade disputes and retaliation with up to $12 billion in assistance. The news was largely welcomed in farm country as a way to provide short-term relief. But new concerns are emerging.
Like many of you, I first learned about tariffs and the impacts on international trade and global economies from my history books. Now, one of the most common questions I get from farmers who see the word "tariff" in the news almost daily is "how do tariffs really work?"
New labels to inform you about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your foods are on their way, even though there is no evidence that such products are any different from a nutrition or food safety standpoint. About two years ago, in an effort to fend off various state-by-state labeling schemes and more marketing confusion, Congress mandated that federal labels on all GMO-containing products in food stores inform consumers about the presence of GMOs.
One might wonder what unites two distinctly different U.S. Senators: one who is a GOP conservative from Utah and the other, a liberal democrat from New Jersey. But during recent debate on the farm bill, both united to restrict and reform farmer-funded commodity checkoff programs in the form of an amendment. Similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., but was pulled from consideration before it could be debated during the House farm bill debate.
What would you do without your local veterinarian? More and more farmers and ranchers are finding out as many current professionals who handle large animals are retiring and new replacements are harder to find.
Since March, we've been watching a potential high-stakes trade war building between the U.S. and China — first over steel and aluminum, then hundreds of other targets were added to lists that each side threatened to harm with painful tariffs or other restrictions. The lists included everything from soybeans to pork, apples to nuts. Farmers and ranchers — who know they are usually one of the first targets of trade retaliation — were understandably nervous. Markets were depressed. And then some of those fears came true.
Shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives defeated the farm bill on June 20, 2013, Rep. Justin Amash, along with hundreds of business leaders, government officials and staff, attended a $250-a-plate dinner hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The libertarian group, which espouses "free market" principles, made a James Bond spoof video called "Capitalism Never Dies," and the group's president, Lawson Bader, sported a kilt in tribute to retired actor Sean Connery.
The recent decision by a U.S. Appeals Court dealt another blow to the Montana beef checkoff and signaled a significant victory for the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), an organization that's made no secret about its desire to challenge other state beef checkoff programs and more broadly, other checkoff programs.