Manifolds, Manolos & Manure...by Bona Heinsohn
In March, Farm Bureau leaders from throughout Illinois traveled to the nation’s capital. Leaders spent the week meeting with U.S. Congressmen, agency staff, and trade groups in an effort to learn more about issues impacting agriculture and to lobby for priority issues.
During conversations with the Canadian embassy, leaders learned that under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. agricultural and food exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled. The trading partnership has created between five and six million American jobs. Locally, the food grown on two out of every ten acres on Illinois farms is used to feed livestock in Canada and Mexico. Farmers remain concerned about the future of NAFTA after President Trump pulled the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).
Leaders also traversed “Embassy row” in route to the Embassy of Ireland in Washington D.C. Like Canada, Ireland is a trading partner of the U.S. During both visits, Farm Bureau leaders discussed the importance of trade and maintaining access to foreign markets for agricultural commodities.
Trade was a continuing theme throughout the week in Washington D.C., especially as Farm Bureau leaders met with Senators and Congressmen. During each meeting, they explained the importance of trade to agriculture and asked for the continuance of NAFTA.
During a meeting with Congressmen Peter Roskam, Farm Bureau leaders thanked him for his work on tax reform and urged him to ensure that interest deductions remain. Many farmers carry a large amount of capital debt after the purchase of land, equipment or buildings and many farmers carry operating debt to help them to finance the planting of a crop. Being able to deduct interest expenses on income taxes is vital.
Farm Bureau leaders carried a similar message to U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. Krishnamoorthi was elected in 2016 to replace then-Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. In addition to asking for tax reform, leaders also lobbied for regulatory reform. Current proposals ask federal agencies to use science and the lowest cost option when propagating rules. The administrative rules process should be fair and transparent. Everyone should feel comfortable trusting the process. It’s easier to trust the outcome when you trust the process.
Both messages were carried to U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. In addition, Farm Bureau leaders spoke about the importance of having a viable, legal workforce. H-2A provides farmers, especially vegetable growers a skilled workforce in which the farmer bears the cost associated with the employees’ transportation into the U.S., housing while in the U.S., medical insurance, and return transportation. Farm Bureau policy supports H-2A and is part of a growing effort to expand and improve H-2A.
In addition to Hill visits, leaders conversed with representatives from AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Animal Agriculture Alliance, and the National Milk Producers Federation.