For the first time in 26 years, a sitting president spoke to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.
President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE’s recent trip to Nashville illustrates just how important farmers and rural voters are to this President. They are the anchor of his base, and his speech he reflected his commitment to them by promising to listen to rural America and support the people who produce our food and fiber.
One of the most tangible ways to fulfill that promise and to ensure that agriculture’s voice is being heard in Washington, D.C., especially as NAFTA and other trade agreements are being reconsidered and negotiated, is to confirm Gregg Doud to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
At the Farm Bureau, President Trump stressed the importance of farmers to the American experience by saying “We know that our nation was founded by farmers. Our independence was won by farmers. Our continent was tamed by farmers…Our armies have been fed by farmers and made of farmers. And throughout our history, farmers have always, always, always led the way.”
Farmers do lead the way, but particularly now, with farm incomes declining, they depend more than ever on a global economy that allows them to sell their products beyond our borders.
The president has focused his team on negotiating trade agreements that promote American products, and according to the USDA’s latest Agriculture Census data from 2012, that includes more than 2.5 million farm workers around the country.
Not only workers, but the general farm economy is vitally dependent on open markets for our products. For example, soybean production is heavily dependent on overseas trade.
The Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service shows that in 2016 over 83 million acres of soybeans were planted, and roughly 47 percent of this crop was exported. China, EU countries, Mexico, Japan and Taiwan were the primary recipients of U.S. soybeans abroad and a loss or reduction in exports to even one of these markets could have a significant negative impact on farmers around the country.
With nearly half of soybeans grown in the U.S. headed for export markets, it’s clear that our rural economy depends on stable arrangements with our trading partners.
As we near one year of the Trump administration, Congress should again turn their attention to the vital role of Chief Agricultural Negotiator at USTR. USTR is charged with negotiating the president’s trade agenda and our agreements with other countries.
Gregg Doud’s long history in agriculture, working for and with commodity groups, as an agriculture policy advisor on Capitol Hill, and in financial markets that are essential to farmers and ranchers, will be much needed at USTR.
Doud and I worked alongside each other for only a short time on Capitol Hill, but his reputation for hard work on behalf of American agriculture and interest in expanding markets for farmers and ranchers should be weighed as the Senate considers his nomination.
In light of NAFTA renegotiations, the shared goal of Congress and the administration to see farmers prosper, and the need to have an advocate to do that, senators should allow one of our most effective positions at USTR, the one that wakes up every day and thinks of ways to create new markets for American producers, to be confirmed and get to work.
USTR needs an effective point person to focus on farmers, and rural America needs to have their concerns heard and be considered alongside all other industries in this and future trade negotiations. Gregg Doud is that person and the Senate should confirm him.
T.A. Hawks is a partner at Monument Policy Group. Hawks previously served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry under then Ranking Member, Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.), where he led Senate Republican efforts on the 2014 Farm Bill. Hawks served on Capitol Hill for nearly 15 years as a senior policy and political advisor, including service as a Senate chief of staff and legislative director.