Family farm champions urge Farm Bill passage, trade support
WASHINGTON — As family farmers and ranchers endure a growing financial crisis in the farm economy, a handful of congressional champions for family agriculture joined the National Farmers Union (NFU) Fly-In on Sept. 12 in emphasizing the critical need for passage of the 2018 farm bill and significant long-term support for farmers amidst an escalating trade war.
“There’s a crisis in the making for many North Dakota farmers, and they deserve better than being treated like collateral damage in the administration’s trade war,” said U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota at the NFU Fly-In. “Amid ongoing trade uncertainty, farmers and ranchers need a strong, bipartisan bill that protects crop insurance, gives growers much-needed predictability, and expands— not shrinks— their access to global markets.”
Net farm income has plummeted by nearly 50 percent over the past five years, leaving a majority of family farmers earning negative farm income, many of them in severe financial strain, and even more without the opportunity to farm again next year. On top of low farm income, the administration’s trade war with the world has further depressed commodity prices and caused long-term damage to vital trade markets for U.S. farm products.
“Colorado farmers and ranchers want to compete and grow in local and global markets—not be stifled by erratic policy from Washington,” explained U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. “In light of low commodity prices and persistent drought, we worked hard in the Senate to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill with a reliable farm safety net and fully funded conservation programs. Instead of acting responsibly, this Administration’s trade war is inflicting long-term damage on our agricultural economy. This damage—and continued market uncertainty—make it all the more pressing to send a bipartisan Farm Bill to the president’s desk. “
U.S. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota said Congress must pass the 2018 Farm Bill ahead of the September 30 expiration of the current farm bill.
“The farm economy in Minnesota and across the country has been hit hard by years of low prices and now is dealing with harmful trade disruptions,” said Sen. Smith. “Our producers need a Farm Bill that will get them through the current hard times and provide them with the certainty they need to plan their operations into the future. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan Farm Bill with a strong safety net and policies that will enhance the farm economy in Minnesota and across the country. Now we need to get it over the finish line and signed into law.”
Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Chellie Pingree of Maine also spoke to the importance of congressional action on behalf of family farmers.
Three hundred and fifty Farmers Union members made the trip to Washington, D.C., to push for passage of a farm bill that supports family agriculture, strong protections from international trade market disruptions, and expansion of the American grown biofuel market. The group will spend the next two days visiting all 535 congressional offices to deliver their personal stories as to how federal level policies impact their families and communities.
“Family farmers and ranchers are in the midst of the worst decline in the farm economy in decades, and they want to see action from their federal representatives,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “It is critical right now for family farm agriculture to have the support of Congress and the administration. And that support can come through immediate passage of the farm bill and movement on a long-term, legislative solution that protects family farmers from the significant damage occurring to our trade markets.”