From the farm bill to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to trade, immigration and even infrastructure, many issues currently being taken up in Washington D.C. are tied to agriculture.
That means as Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents visit Capitol Hill this week there will never be a lack of conversation.
As flights arrived from Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit Tuesday morning, representative from American Farm Bureau welcomed their Ohio guests and gave them the full rundown of issues that members of Congress from Ohio need to hear about. On the top of that list is the farm bill and whether one will be completed this year.
“Yes I think it is going to happen this year because we have strong leadership in both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Hill,” said Dale Moore, Director of Public Policy with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The formal process is just getting ready to kick off, but both committees have been working for a couple of years now pulling together information through meetings and listening sessions. Plus, USDA Secretary Perdue and his team are up to speed and they are ready to get to work. From our standpoint, all of the pieces are in place to make this happen.”
Obvious changes in this new farm bill compared to the 2014 legislation will be to the dairy and cotton programs, which have both left their respective farmers in a not-so-favorable situation. Another change may be coming down the line for the ARC-County program, which was a popular choice for Ohio producers.
“A change to ARC-County is something we have heard from a lot of different states all over the country,” Moore said. “So, we are hopeful we will see some tweaks there to balance out that county to county difference that was seen in the previous farm bill.”
Farm Bureau is pushing for a more robust, more validated auditable type of data set that USDA can use to plug into the ARC-County program formula.
County presidents from Ohio also received details regarding regulatory reform, immigration and trade. When it comes to trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Korean Agreement (KORUS) and the most recent talk of tariffs were top of mind. Of all of the soybeans produced in Ohio, nearly half are exported to China. One of the concerns is Chinese retaliating to the tariffs by cutting agriculture imports from the U.S.
“I think we are always correct to be concerned that agriculture will be the point of the spear when it comes to tariff retaliation,” said Veronica Nigh, an economist with American Farm Bureau. “The European Union, who is also a big exporter of steel and aluminum to the U.S., has already released a list of products they will target with additional tariffs. The Chinese have been slower to put out such a list, but they have been on record at the very highest levels saying that they will retaliate in kind if the tariffs are put in place against them.”
She told the group of Ohio Farm Bureau county president that some positive progress was made on the agriculture front in the latest NAFTA talks. The rumors of the U.S. rejoining the TPP are coming up more frequently, which some say is a sign the thought may be more realistic in the near future.
Later today, the group will be attending a Farm Forum, hosted by Representative Bob Gibbs, where they will hear from some heavy hitters from Congress, many of them members of the House Agriculture Committee.