Farmers across the country are finishing another planting season, and there’s nothing quite like the optimism and faith that goes into this season of farming. We cannot know what Mother Nature or the markets will bring next, but we plant and hope, expectant for a good year. We also know our job is far from over once the seeds are in the ground. While farming takes a great deal of faith, it also takes a lot of hard work and tending to see a crop to harvest.
America’s farmland aren’t the only fields that need tending at the end of this spring planting season. We’ve sown good policy seeds on issues of great importance to farmers and ranchers this year, and now is the time for us to carefully tend, water and nourish those seeds till they bring a full harvest for our rural economy.
One crop we are watching carefully is the 2018 farm bill, which could be brought to the floor of the House for a vote as soon as this week. Farm Bureau put out the call for grassroots members to make their voices heard and to tell lawmakers how important the 2018 farm bill is to our livelihoods. You all answered that call. It takes each one of us getting outside our fencerows and speaking with a united voice to get a unified nutrition and agriculture bill without delay. We’ve heard from Congress, and they have heard you. But we are not across the finish line just yet. We still face amendments that could threaten critical programs and keep the 2018 farm bill from getting to President Trump’s desk.
Lawmakers need to keep hearing from you as they get ready to vote on this bill. They need to know how important crop insurance and farm programs are to your businesses, especially in this down economy. There should be no doubt in their minds where farmers and ranchers stand on the 2018 farm bill, and there should be no member of Congress entering the House chamber to vote without first having heard from farmers and ranchers back home.
Another crop nearing harvest is NAFTA 2.0. Time is quickly running out for negotiators to reach an agreement this year. If a final trade agreement is going to make it to Congress in time for them to review this session, it needs to be sent to the Hill by week’s end. Negotiators are still ironing out details, however. One sticking point that remains for U.S. agriculture is Canada’s unfair dairy pricing scheme. A couple key areas for agriculture have resolved in these talks already, like updated sanitary standards and a scientific approach to biotechnology. But to truly call this a modernized agreement, NAFTA 2.0 should work for all of U.S. agriculture. NAFTA has been a great success for America’s farmers and ranchers, and that must continue. We will continue to work with the administration and Congress to ensure the crops farmers planted this spring have a market at harvest.
Farmers know how quickly weeds, pests and disease can threaten a plant and destroy it before it’s full grown—or worse, wipe out a crop altogether. That’s why we are so vigilant to guard against threats and to target pests, disease and drought before it’s too late. We are putting that same watchfulness to the policy issues before us this week, and we are hopeful that our labors will yield a harvest of opportunity for all of rural America.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. You can follow him on Twitter @ZippyDuvall.