Stung by trade wars, U.S. farmers hope
for quick progress on Farm Bill
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[November 13, 2018]
By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iowa soybean farmer
Mike Schlosser does not expect President Donald Trumpís trade war with
China, the single biggest headwind to his business, to end any time
soon. But he is among many in farm country who expect at least some good
news this year - in the form of a new Farm Bill.
Congress comes back on Tuesday for the lame-duck session after Democrats
in last week's mid-term elections gained control of the U.S. House of
Representatives. Lawmakers have said passing the critical piece of
agricultural legislation is their highest priority.
That would provide some comfort to farmers who for the past several
months have been crushed by the loss of export markets due to the trade
wars and are keen for a legislative backstop if the trade disputes
"It's our safety net," Schlosser said. "We could use all the help we can
to eliminate any uncertainty in times like this," he said.
The Farm Bill provides funding for an array of programs important to
farmers, including crop subsidies, rural development programs and
support accessing export markets. The latest bill, passed in 2014,
expired on Sept. 30 after talks over its replacement broke down.
At issue was a bitter partisan debate over a provision in the draft of
the new bill that would have imposed stricter work requirements for
recipients of food stamps. The Republican-led House of Representatives
passed an $867 billion bill in June with the tougher requirements, over
the objections of Democrats. The Senate, meanwhile, passed its own
bipartisan version that excluded them.
With Democrats in control of the House, the deadlock could be resolved,
several senior lawmakers said last week, even as Trump reiterated his
desire for stricter work requirements in the bill.
Curt Mether, a corn and soybean farmer from Iowa, said he hoped Trump
would back down. "I think President Trump will be willing to step down
on the work requirements issue in the end as he understands the House
will be Democrat-controlled," he said.
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Soybean plants around 45-days before harvest are seen on a farm near
Norborne, Missouri, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File
He noted a new farm bill could help farmers survive the ongoing
trade dispute, which has driven China, traditionally the biggest
buyer of U.S. agriculture exports, mostly out of the market.
"Some of our export programs are funded through the Farm Bill. While
we are negotiating with China, it is really important that we get
all the trade we can with other countries," he said.
Bill Hemesath, an Iowa corn and hog farmer, agreed. "I'm hopeful...
Amid the trade tariffs, without a farm bill, we would not have
access to market development programs, and these are crucial," he
Dairy farmers, whose trade with Mexico and Canada was hit by tariffs
over the summer and have yet to recover despite a new North American
trade deal, have also called on lawmakers to settle the deal on the
"Given the sustained low prices dairy farmers have faced, coupled
with uncertainty in agricultural trade policy, it is more important
than ever that Congress quickly enact the 2018 Farm Bill before
adjourning for the year," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the
National Milk Producers Federation.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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