At Commodity Classic last week farmers and their corresponding national organizations for wheat, sorghum, corn and soybeans touched on many issues facing agriculture, and securing favorable trade agreements and a new farm bill are at the top of their list of priorities. The Chair of the Indiana Soybean Alliance talked farm bill just prior to the week’s keynote address. Tom Griffiths from Kendallville said farmers gave a lot during the last farm bill negotiations.
“We did, and we’re putting together a farm bill that should be easy for the new Administration to work with,” he said. “We just want to keep our current levels. We want to double MAP (Market Access Program) and FMD (Foreign Market Development Program) funding, some of the agriculture groups that do work for us.”
He added the “new Administration is working on a lot of things, health care, trade, and one of those things that should be easy for them to do, and first we need a new Secretary of Ag before do that, but we’ll give them a document that should be easy to work with. It should be pretty simple and something they can pass, and then they can move on to some of those harder issues.”
After HAT spoke with Griffiths, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas delivered the keynote address. He agreed with Griffiths that the farm bill should be passed early and shouldn’t be as complicated as the 2014 farm bill.
“I can’t find one person who says they really like the drama of an expiration, I like the drama of a short-term extension, I like the drama of permanent law coming back. So, it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for a lot of reasons, to eliminate the uncertainty of all that, putting together a five-year plan that producers and bankers can look at.”
Griffiths reiterated that farmers pushed President Trump to the White House. Now he feels the return should be good, working trade agreements that ensure overseas markets for agricultural products.
“With 94 percent of the consumers living outside of the United States, it’s not hard to tell we need to work on trade. NAFTA has been a really good thing for farmers. Parts of those trade issues do have things that aren’t so good for other industries and farming is one that has benefited. We do want to keep that with NAFTA. China being our biggest trading partner, we want to work with them. I know the new Administration has some issues, but keep in mind China uses a majority of our soybeans.”
He’s hopeful the Administration can pull pieces from TPP and TTIP to create agreements that are beneficial to everyone.