Hundreds of farmers gathered yesterday near Mentone, Indiana, for another Ceres Solutions Knowledge Day. While the mood was generally upbeat, the outlook from Washington was bleak. Native Hoosier, former top USDA official, and now Director of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Chuck Connor kicked off the Knowledge Event with a sobering assessment of the adverse impact Washington is having on the American farmer.
In a live Facebook interview with HAT, Conner said the just announced trade deal with Mexico is good news but we still have a long way to go, “The Mexico agreement is good news, but we hope Canada follows quickly. We cannot stand a long term disruption of this important trade sector.”
Connor is not optimistic that we are going to see any progress soon on our trade dispute with China, “We are hopeful we can see progress with China at some point, but it is a longer term project.” He believes that, despite the disruption the China trade issue has had, most farmers still support the President and his goal of correcting the many trade abuses in which China engages.
The former ag advisor to President Bush warned, however, that outcome of the mid-term elections may determine when and if our trade battle with China ever gets solved, “If the Democrats take control of the House and Senate as they hope to do, President Trump’s ability to negotiate these trade deals will be severely limited.” He added that the Indiana Senate race is key and that many outside groups are focusing attention and dollars on it. He stopped short of making any endorsements in the race.
As a result, he feels the package of financial assistance outlined by the USDA on Monday will be a big help for soybean growers who are being hurt the most by the trade tariffs, “There will be a $1.65 per bushel available for soybean growers with half of that coming this fall; that is a lot of help for growers here in the Midwest.”
Conner is also worried that the nutrition title has the potential to delay or even kill the new Farm Bill. He added that immigration, an issue that is important to agriculture, is so controversial it cannot even be talked about in Washington. According to Connor, 70% of the U.S. ag labor force are undocumented and that for some sectors of agriculture immigration is even a bigger issue than prices and trade.
The recent court ruling on WOTUS is a step backwards in eliminating regulations, according to Connor. In his remarks, he sharply criticized judges who want to make policy with their rulings. He noted that ag interests are trying to get the case considered by another court.
One of the few bright spots in his presentation was tax reform. Connor said the bill passed earlier this year is good news for agriculture, “In the future, farm income will recover, and this will keep farmers have having a major tax burden.” He noted this is one of the few good things Washington has done for farmers recently.
Good weather and a variety of informative field demonstrations brought a good crowd to the first Knowledge Event held in Northern Indiana. Following the merger of Ceres Solutions and North Central Coop last year, two Knowledge Events were held this year, one in Perrysville and the other in Mentone. Coop officials said they were pleased with the way the event went and plan to repeat it again in 2019.