With America’s farm economy in the doldrums, leaders from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) today said that smart policies are needed to weather the storm.
“Farm incomes are down more than 50 percent since 2013,” Andrew Walmsley, AFBF’s director of government relations, explained. “And USDA predicts that they will stay below 2013 levels for the next decade.”
Roger Johnson, president of NFU, was equally as blunt in his assessment at the International Sweetener Symposium.
“Farming is a money-losing proposition right now,” he said, pointing to USDA data showing a negative median farm income this year. “Debt is up and bankruptcies are accelerating.”
Both men agreed that international trade was a big reason, with foreign nations erecting retaliatory tariffs against U.S. farm goods and ratcheting up subsidies that promote overproduction and distort prices. Fighting for farmers in trade negotiations and pushing back against unfair trade practices abroad will be key to reviving the farm economy, they said, as will a strong domestic farm policy.
“We need a Farm Bill that works,” Johnson exclaimed to the crowd of roughly 400 sugar industry leaders.
Walmsley thinks the Farm Bill recently passed by the House and Senate, which is now in conference to reconcile, takes a step in the right direction.
America’s no-cost sugar policy is included in both versions of the Farm Bill, and the NFU and AFBF were vocal supporters for the policy during the Farm Bill debate.
Ryan Weston, the incoming chairman of the American Sugar Alliance, moderated the panel and said sugar policy is essential to sugar producers’ ability to secure capital in these tough times.
“Sugar prices are still hovering around 1980s levels, while the cost of doing business continues to climb,” he said. “Without a strong sugar policy and a strong Farm Bill, our lenders wouldn’t have the confidence they need to help us through these tough times. And that would hurt more than just sugar farmers – it would hurt 142,000 American workers, too.”