As we wrap up 2018, the nation’s largest farm organization looks back at the wins and losses for agriculture and the challenges that loom for the new year. AFBF President Zippy Duvall counts finally getting a Farm Bill passed and signed as a big win, “We were successful in helping Congress pass a farm bill that we’re real excited about. It provides a lot of really good things for agriculture, especially certainty for the next five years.”
While some will see trade as a big loss, Duval says, overall, trade was a win for U.S. farmers, “We worked with the administration to wrap up the Korean trade treaty and the renegotiation of NAFTA into the USMCA, and next year it’ll be a challenge to get it through Congress.” Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron said trade was a major issue for Hoosier farmers all year long. “I can honestly say there has been nothing that has consumed more of my time this past year than trade,” said Kron. “I think it’s extremely important that we make sure the public understands how tariffs are impacting farmers’ operations and, for many, their livelihoods.” Kron mentioned that the recent “trade truce” between China and the U.S. feels like a step in the right direction. “Well it’s good that things seem to be moving in the right direction where trade and China are concerned, although since we don’t know the details yet I’d say we are cautiously optimistic that the truce will be good news for agriculture,” he said.
Almost total repeal of the estate tax also tops Duvall’s list of wins for 2018. Along with repeal of the WOTUS rule, “We got a new Waters of U.S. ruling that we think is going to be a lot fairer to our farmers, that’s going to provide clean water and clear rules.” AFBF plans to launch a major grassroots campaign at their national convention in January aimed at getting a new WOTUS rule in place, “We’re going to have a campaign and encouraging our grassroots to be involved in that process.”
Both WOTUS and Trade will be two of the top challenges facing farmers in 2019. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the administration on the China issue,” stated Duvall. “While the trade war is going on, we’re encouraging them to move forward with that and try to help us there, but what we’re really encouraged by is the letter the President sent up to Congress of his intent to start discussions with Japan, the EU and the UK, and we think there is great potential in those three countries.”
For Kron, improving the farm economy and the profitability of producers is a top priority for 2019. “Now, as the farm economy has improved, we have seen our sons and daughters come back to the farm,” he said. “But the tougher the farm economy gets, the harder that will be to sustain.” When discussing a solution, Kron said that he has high expectations that the administration will implement a strategy that has agriculture at the forefront, but that he is concerned that it may take longer to implement the strategy than the average farmer’s operating capital will allow.