Often, we residents of rural America feel ignored and underappreciated by national politicians, but that’s their fault. They forget that “flyover country” represent real wealth to our nation. In a letter this week, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue reminded President Joe Biden of that fact. McHargue wrote: “Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.28 in economic activities, such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production.”
Farmers and ranchers produce real wealth for this nation. The best way to multiply that wealth is to capitalize on the strengths of U.S. agriculture and aggressively participate in global trade.
Former President Donald Trump didn’t seem to understand that vital fact. He withdrew the United States from global trade pacts, severing our ag producers from lucrative opportunities and eroding trust in the U.S. as a reliable supplier.
Our current president, Joe Biden, used this Trump failing in his campaign for the White House; however, Biden is repeating Trump’s mistake by not answering his own call for aggressive action on trade.
McHargue’s letter communicated farm country’s concerns about the administration’s apparent lack of action: “In the five months that have passed since writing the letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and the eight months you’ve been in office, we have seen very little accomplished in the area of trade and trade policy. This lack of progress is unacceptable and undermines your pledge to ‘restore U.S. global leadership.’”
The trade issue is of extreme importance here in farm country, especially as we harvest our crops of corn and soybeans and hope that prices we’re paid for those crops contribute to a healthy bottom line. Likewise, cattle, swine and other livestock we produce had better fetch fair prices, or the consequences will be felt everywhere. Main street businesses, our schools, churches and hospitals all rely on a healthy rural economy, and that begins with a healthy farm economy.
Farmers and ranchers know that if they fail to receive fair prices it bodes poorly for the months ahead. Rather than supporting the rural economy, farmers and ranchers tighten their purse strings and wait for better days. Biden needs to understand that developing global trade hedges risks. Developing global trade relations for decades has been the goal for crop and livestock producers. Through the years they’ve reminded presidents and ag secretaries that rural Americans require support from the White House to establish new trade agreements and open new markets. If the U.S. is slow to act or ignores these opportunities, competing nations are happy to exploit the void.
As McHargue states, trade accounts for 30% of Nebraska’s total agricultural receipts. USDA statistics tell us that Nebraska exported agricultural commodities are worth $6.3 billion. That’s new wealth for rural America and it’s new wealth for our nation. It shouldn’t be squandered because of inaction.