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Editorial: August 2018

Opportunity for input on new Farm Bill

Editorial BY JOSH KRAMER


Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager, NDARECNorth Dakota is a state where 90 percent of our landmass is dedicated to production agriculture. It remains the largest sector of the state’s economy, accounting for more than 25 percent of our economic base.

About every five years, Congress takes up discussion and renewal of the Farm Bill. This formidable piece of legislation contains many sections - called “titles.” The titles concern commodities and price support, conservation, trade, nutrition, farm credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy, specialty crops, crop insurance and various other programs serving agriculture and crop and livestock production. Many of these titles involve programs reaching us through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Recently, I was privileged to be able to represent North Dakota’s electric cooperatives and voice our support for the Farm Bill at separate meetings, one hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and the other by Congressman Kevin Cramer. My message at these meetings focused on progress and passage of a new Farm Bill with specific support described for the energy and rural development titles.

The Farm Bill and USDA work should continue services that help electric cooperatives perform their basic, vital activities. These services help assure continued financing for affordable electricity for our cooperatives, help modernize our electric grid and sustain valuable rural economic development programs.

It is also important that the Farm Bill contain a strong rural development title, extending programs designed to help improve the quality of life in rural America.

Both the U.S. House and the Senate have passed their versions of the Farm Bill and the differences are being worked out in a conference committee. The members of our congressional delegation will play an integral role helping to shepherd the bill’s final passage. The hope is that Congress can pass and President Trump can sign a new Farm Bill soon. The current bill expires on Sept. 30.

At the Farm Bill meetings I attended, it was noticeable how often and quickly the discussion pivoted from the bill’s titles to expressions of concern in the area of international trade. The administration’s moves to impose new trade tariffs, and reshape U.S. trade posture have the attention of the agricultural community. Many in the community fear the consequences of new trade wars, where existing markets and trade relationships for our commodities might be damaged.

So, in addition to its many dimensions, the new Farm Bill is being considered as a possible resource for coping with disruptions in trade. That said, strong sentiment remains among ag producers for the kind of profitable commodity markets which minimizes reliance on Farm Bill provisions.

My hope is that Congress can enact and the president can sign a strong new Farm Bill – one which will continue to be a useful asset for our producers of food for a hungry world and for continued prosperity for rural America.

 

JJosh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727; email to jkramer@ndarec.com.