Farmers, Nebraska Farm Bureau talk trade at local convention

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Hundreds of farmers all across Nebraska are discussing ways to improve agriculture in the state at a Nebraska Farm Bureau convention in Kearney.

One of the many topics discussed today was the new farm bill, which seems to be moving along for congressional approval.

Officials with the Nebraska Farm Bureau are describing the bill as more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.

Although it's not finalized yet, they do know that there aren't many - if any - large-scale changes from the last farm bill.

There'll be minor tweaks to commodity programs, and some rule changes within the conservation programs.

One of the primary concerns for many farmers is the maintenance of federal crop insurance.

"It hasn't been a boom by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives us some certainty as rural crop farmers the risk that goes into putting that rural crop in the ground every year," said Kevin Peterson, a farmer and rancher from Polk County. "If we can make sure that catastrophic things occur that we're taken care of that's the goal."

Peterson said the current farm bill was good for a time, but didn't lend much support to farmers.

And retaliatory tariffs certainly haven't helped either, at a time when some farmers are struggling and the agricultural economy is on the down swing.

A new report from the Nebraska Farm Bureau shows retaliatory tariffs imposed by U.S. trading partners have cut Nebraska farm level revenue between $700 million and $1 billion in 2018.

It also showed that cash prices in Hastings weakened corn prices by 14 to 21 cents per bushel and soybean prices by 95 cents to $1.54.

Many local farmers are calling for more free trade internationally.

"Our beans have had a tremendous market this year, harvest both in beans and corn," said Mark Mchargue, a corn and popcorn bean farmer from Merrick County. "They need our products and we just need to be able to freely trade those and get our commodities to the people that need them."

And that's what the Nebraska Farm Bureau is trying to do.

In the report, they set out specific actions to eliminate retaliatory tariffs and improve the agricultural market in Nebraska.

They want to 1) Secure Congressional approval and finalization of the USMCA Agreement, 2) Eliminate the U.S. imposed steel and aluminum tariffs, 3) Secure a free trade agreement with Japan and the European Union, 4) Include the U.S. in CPTPP, 5) Use a multi-national approach with U.S. trade partners to address China.

But it seems as though President Trump is already making his own moves with China.

Over the weekend, Trump announced discussion with China to buy more American farm and industrial goods. In return, Trump said he would cancel a plan to impose more tariffs on Chinese products.

"Very beneficial hopefully for agriculture," said Jordan Dux, director of national affairs for the Nebraska Farm Bureau. "The Chinese are going to buy more agricultural products. That's a good thing. But we need to see the details of that again as it progresses.

The administration has 90 days to go over official trade decisions.

As of now, the 2019 farm bill has passed in both the House and Senate. They're compiling a final deal before sending it off to the president. They'll be voting on it next week.