By Joby Young
For many, 2022 was a year of change and transition. As we all thankfully watched the worst of the pandemic pass, new challenges arose, especially in farm country, as post-pandemic changes in consumer behavior, global supply chains, and monetary policy caused major shifts in the economy.
It was a year of transition for me personally, as I joined the American Farm Bureau as Executive Vice President. A priority for me once onboard was to get out and meet our members, so I traveled the country doing just that. I’m grateful to have been warmly welcomed into the Farm Bureau family and look forward to advocating for solutions in 2023.
While the last year will be remembered for issues such as sharply rising input costs, ag labor concerns, and overzealous regulatory proposals, many of these will carry into 2023 as well. On some, we’ll look to build on great progress in 2022, while in others we’ll be seeking solutions that were elusive last year.
An issue at the forefront last year was the rising cost of everything.
Rising input costs
An issue at the forefront last year was the rising cost of everything. The high cost of fuel severely impacted farmers and ranchers, especially as they navigated the fall harvest season. The cost of fertilizer increased by more than 60% from 2021 to 2022. Thankfully, at our urging, the U.S. International Trade Commission rejected proposed tariffs on imports of a key fertilizer ingredient. Whether in fuel, fertilizer, or other supply costs—continued increases in 2023 are not sustainable. We will pursue every policy option possible to stabilize and lower supply costs.
The lack of farmworkers continues to be U.S. agriculture’s most frustrating challenge. With rising wage rates and record usage of the H-2A visa program, labor shortages must be addressed. We spent a great deal of time trying to negotiate a bipartisan solution. Unfortunately, negotiators were unable to reach agreement. We are right back at the table with a new Congress as we work to make the H-2A program accessible and affordable.
We are very concerned about Mexico’s push to phase out the importation of biotech corn and agriculture products. This import ban would hurt the people of Mexico as well as America’s farmers, who are dedicated to growing safe and affordable food for families on both sides of the border. We appreciate Secretary Vilsack for standing firm in support of American agriculture – fair trade with Mexico is a must. With the U.S. falling behind other ag exporting countries, agricultural trade leaders have their work cut out for them to catch up with meaningful trade agreements.
Water regulation and rights
In 2023, water is going to continue to be a big issue. The new Waters of the U.S. rule gives government sweeping control over private property and doubles down on the old, confusing significant nexus test. Then there is the issue of limited water supplies, particularly in the west. Farmers and ranchers want to conserve this resource, ensure its quality, and remain true partners in addressing water issues. We’ll keep advocating for policy solutions that recognize this in 2023.
The farm bill will be front and center in 2023. It’s a critical tool to ensure our nation’s food and farm security but we need to modernize it to meet today’s challenges. The farm safety net, including risk management tools like crop insurance, must be strengthened. Farm bill conservation programs and research funding – pivotal to the sustainability advances we’ve achieved – must be appropriately targeted and focused on partnership with producers to achieve the goals of tomorrow. My hope is that the long tradition of bipartisan cooperation to pass farm bills continues in 2023. It’s key to America’s farmers and ranchers continuing to provide the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.
Joby Young is executive vice president at the American Farm Bureau Federation.