For the week of Feb. 6, 2017

Trade already

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau 

U.S. agriculture needs the Trump administration to strongly support the crops and livestock this nation’s farmers produce. Our government must commit to becoming the best we can be in international trade. If we conducted trade the same way we produced food, we wouldn’t have trouble moving agricultural products to people who need them overseas.

The United States has the climate, cropland and know-how to supply agricultural products to feed the nations of the hungry world. Our country has the world’s best infrastructure. We have some of the most productive farmers and ranchers on this planet.

It’s time for the leadership of this country to view American agriculture as one of the premier growth opportunities. For far too long the east and west coasts, and its vast populations receive top billing above those who live in the Heartland. Those who supply much of the world with the healthiest, most affordable food.

Agriculture has taken a back seat to other sectors of this nation’s economy for too long. With less than 2 percent of the U.S. population farming and ranching, we are often overlooked.

Remember, our entire rural economy depends on agricultural exports and farm income. Local Kansas banks, implement dealers, grocery stores, even health services, depend on our ability to market wheat, corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs abroad.

In 2015, U.S. ag exports totaled approximately $133 billion. This amounts to 25 percent of all U.S. production of grains, feeds, livestock and horticultural products.

Incidentally, nearly half of the wheat from Kansas and other Midwestern states is exported each year.


We must become more aggressive in conducting trade agreements. Our secretary of agriculture must make international trade a top priority and work it. Without strong trade agreements that give us free access to the world marketplace, we cannot prosper in agriculture or any other business that depends so much on exports.

If the world’s farm trade barriers were removed, this country could increase agricultural commodity sales. What we don’t need is additional trade barriers.

Sanctions do not work – they only hurt our nation’s ability to trade. Each time we impose new sanctions, we surrender yet another market to competitors who are too willing to sell in our absence.

If the world’s farm trade barriers were removed, this country could increase agricultural commodity sales. U.S. farmers could also supply the raw materials for an estimated $40 billion per year in exports of high-valued processed foods from new plants located primarily in rural areas.

President Trump has expressed a preference for bilateral trade agreements. Negotiate them.

Whether such negotiations are bilateral or multilateral should not matter. What is important is that this president works out trade deals – now.

U.S. agriculture cannot afford to be placed behind other sectors of our economy when this country trades. Our position on the trade pecking order is breaking the back of American agriculture. Farm and ranch exports must be moved to the top of our U.S. trade priorities.

The future of U.S. agriculture is tied to our competitiveness in world trade. Our country must become more aggressive and assume its leadership role in trade negotiations.

It’s past time for our nation’s country to lead this trade train. Political posturing and lack of cooperation on both sides of the aisle hasn’t worked. Our elected leaders were sent to Washington on behalf of this nation’s people. It’s time for them to work on behalf of U.S. farmers and ranchers throughout this great nation. Now is the time for them to implement free-trade agreements.

 John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.