NFU to emphasize farm certainty, congressional consultation on trade aid |

NFU to emphasize farm certainty, congressional consultation on trade aid

Delegates to the National Farmers Union convention debate policy at the group’s national convention in Savannah, Ga., today.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. – The National Farmers Union will focus on measures to bring “certainty” to the farm economy in 2020, with a particular emphasis on bringing that question to the attention of presidential candidates, newly elected National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said here today after the group’s annual convention ended.

The special orders that the delegates passed to set priorities for 2020 “reflected what an awful year 2019 was,” Larew told reporters in a brief news conference. In addition to bad weather, farmers were affected by “manmade challenges,” a veiled reference to President Donald Trump’s trade policies that led to a loss of U.S. exports, and “the lack of action in the climate space,” Larew said.

NFU will continue to focus on its long-term concerns about concentration in agribusiness and the lack of competition among the companies that supply farmers their inputs and buy their products, Larew said. It has been hard to get Washington to pay attention to those issues, but rising concern about antitrust issues and anticompetitive behavior by tech companies may make it easier to bring attention to the same issues in agriculture, Larew added.

If Trump decides there needs to be another trade aid package, NFU will call upon the administration to “engage” with Congress on the package in hopes of avoiding conflicts that could damage prospects for the next farm bill, Larew said. The Trump administration has not consulted Congress on the two previous trade aid packages, instead using its authority through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to provide the aid.

Special orders also called for:

▪ Adding quality adjustment factors as an option to crop insurance policies.

▪ Developing and adequately funding permanent disaster programs, rather than relying upon ad-hoc initiatives.

▪ Allowing lenders, including the Farm Service Agency, to be more flexible in addressing cash flow deficits for 2020 operating loan applications.

▪ Aiding dairy farmers by “establishing a mandatory program for managed growth based on market demand and price stability.”

▪ Limiting the use of the terms beef, pork, poultry, lamb and seafood in a food label to be used exclusively for “meat harvested from live animals in a traditional manner” and a USDA stamp on cell-based protein “that is visibly different from that of traditional meat.”

Delegates to the convention debated a proposal from the North Dakota Farmers Union that only farmers considered “actively engaged” in farming by the Agriculture Department should be allowed to be delegates to the convention and determine policy. Delegates from other states said many of their members and delegates had other kinds of jobs but were still knowledgeable about agriculture and provided valuable input to the organization, and NFU rejected the proposal by a wide margin. Larew said the decision showed that the delegates believe “we need a broad coalition of interests to get real change made.”

In a news release issued after the convention ended, Larew said, “Between low commodity prices, climate change, and trade uncertainty, there are so many challenges in farm country right now. But there are so many bright spots, too. As consumers get more interested in where their food comes from and how it’s made, new local and diverse agricultural markets are opening up. Conservation agriculture holds significant potential for financial and environmental benefits. Every day, new technologies are making it easier for farmers to improve efficiency and sustainability. And across the country, there’s a resurgence in support for family farm agriculture. So while this convention is a crucial opportunity to address the difficulties facing family farmers and ranchers, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate all the reasons we love agriculture and dedicate our lives to it.”

About 500 farmers and their families, including 199 delegates, attended the convention.

Larew, who was elected by 74% of the delegates to succeed President Roger Johnson, who retired, said members believe “the organization is strong” and can “get a message out to leaders and candidates.”

“This is a tough time. What was positive was folks are excited about the potential,” Larew concluded.

NFU said the full text of the adopted policies will be on its website in about two weeks.