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Catch up on where some of the most important ag issues stand now.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

November 13, 2018

3 Min Read
KEEP THEM HONEST: Make sure you follow what’s happening out there and make these newly elected leaders know that you’re watching their votes.f11photo/Getty Images

It seems like just yesterday, but I remember 2016 well. Rural voters came out en masse and elected someone the "experts" though had little chance to become president.

The 2016 presidential election taught me two things: Be wary of polls, and don't count out the rural vote.

I hope everyone showed up to vote on Nov. 6. I know I did. It's not the most fun thing to do, but it's our civic duty as American citizens no matter who is on the ballet.

So, now that the dust has settled and the political ads have stopped running (thank goodness) it's time to look forward.

National issues such as the dairy crisis, immigration and trade remain largely unresolved. Local issues such as gas pipeline construction and environmental regulations are also on farm voters' minds. 

Oh yes, and there is something called the farm bill that still hasn't been passed. Safe to say, there is a lot to do on ag policy, so let's see where we're at in terms of the most important ag issues:

Farm bill
As of this writing, an agreement on a new five-year farm bill has yet to be passed. Both the House and Senate have passed separate versions of the farm bill and both chambers are currently in conference trying to hash out differences on a final package.

If the current Congress fails to pass a farm bill in the upcoming lame-duck session — most analysts I read think it will pass — then we could be going into 2019 with a new Congress and, perhaps, a farm bill proposal that will be completely rewritten, especially now that Democrats have regained control of the House.

Keep your eye on this one.

The debate over immigration reform is never-ending. The last time there was any real talk on immigration reform was probably over the summer when there was talk of a compromise bill coming out of the House.

Since then, there has been little if any movement on an immigration reform bill, or at least one that addresses the needs of farmers.

For its part, the American Farm Bureau Federation supported HR 4760 because it included changes to address agricultural guest workers. But differences over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, program and a proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border killed the bill.

The new Congress will have to deal with an issue that's been looming over agriculture for more than a decade.

Dairy and trade
President Donald Trump deserves credit for opening additional markets for dairy in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement.

It also does away with Canada's Class 7 milk, which critics say put U.S. farmers at a disadvantage. But the new deal must be approved by the next Congress, so that will also be a big issue in 2019.

The big trade story is China, which has slapped tariffs on soybeans, corn and other products from the U.S. in response to U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods.
A potential trade deal with China would take the pressure off many crop farmers, and other trade deals with the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan could open up new markets for dairy, but time will tell if that will happen.

Be sure to follow what's happening out there and make these newly elected leaders know that you're watching their votes.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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