Alan Merrill Discusses 2018 Farm Bill
September 26, 2018
Alan Merrill attended the National Farmers Union Fly-In in Washington D.C. where 350 farmers meet face-to-face with top Trump administration officials and members of Congress. Alan said, "these are desperate times." He visited, along with the rest of the Montana's delegation, a number of House and Senate Legislators offices including Congressman Greg Gianforte, Senator Steve Daines, and Senator Jon Tester.
According to Merrill, "Our Montana Farmers Union fly-in was a big success in my opinion. They meet with top officials and the majority of the Senate and the House offices where we visited about agriculture issues. They all listened with great concern. The progression of the 2018 Farm Bill was our main priority". What seems to be the sticking point on the Farm Bill is SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) with some legislators insisting that if someone isn't working they shouldn't get food stamps.
Merrill continued, "I met people from our state along with farmers from other states saying a Farm Bill is crucial for their 2019 operation loan. The banking industry needs a new Farm Bill. They want some type of security net and they need to see that by years end. The change in farm country is here now and it is crucial we have some type of security especially for the new farmers in transition mode who are taking over the farm operation."
As much as he hated to say it today's issues reminds him of the 80's. "We do not have the high interest rates, but we do have lower commodity prices and sometimes lower market opportunities". The trade war and higher tariffs are not only affecting our wheat and cattle markets, but recently this reporter learned flooring will be 25% higher when the flooring businesses go to market. Steel prices will affect farm machinery. "This is our reality," Merrill finished. "What we need for the survival of family farming as we know it today is leadership that cares about Agriculture and Family Farms. We need people that put politics aside and actually are concerned about agriculture and not the office they hold. Senator Tester and Senator Daines did a great job of working together, across party lines, to make a good Farm Bill in the Senate. Please write all our legislators and tell them how important it is to understand all the issues concerning the 2018 Farm Bill and the
effects of the current Trade War."
According to numerous published articles nationally net farm income has plummeted close to 50 percent over the past five years. Many farm families are earning negative farm income and many in severe financial strain. And with escalating trade war we continue to lose markets which will affect long-term demand for U. S. agriculture products.
The National Farmers Union policy is to push for "passage of a farm bill that supports family agriculture, strong protections from international trade market disruptions, and expansion of the American grown biofuel market." Roger Johnson President of the National Farmers Union said, "NFU members are especially concerned about the prospect of passing a Farm Bill that promotes family farmers, sustainability and diverse markets for agriculture. They also want to be sure that Congress understands the long-term impact of the trade war, and that commodity prices could remain low for years to come."
At the three-day-event they heard from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Gregory Ibach, USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett, and U.S Trade Representative Chief Agriculture Negotiator Gregg Doud.
Alan Merrill and Montana's delegation besides advocating for Montana farmers also presented to both Senator Daines and Senator Tester the Golden Triangle Award, the group's highest legislative honor for their work in Washington fighting for farmers in Montana.
In case you aren't aware of this Farm Bill program, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network which was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, but was never funded. It was designed to provide farmers with an affordable stress assistance programs. The farmer suicide rate is five times that of the general population. Sixty percent of rural areas suffer from a mental health professional shortage and more than 50% of all farmers will earn negative farm income this year.
Contact information for our National Legislators are: Senator Daines 320 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510, Phone: 202-224-2651, and Email: email@example.com; Senator Tester 311 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510, Phone: 202-224-2644, and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Congressman Greg Gianforte 1419 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515, Phone: 202-225-3211, and Email: email@example.com