Farmers, ranchers, and the whole ag industry have a lot to worry about. Start with farm income – our income has been cut in half over the last 3 or 4 years. There are some hopeful developments. The drought in Argentina and a production shortfall in Brazil may help to lift some of our prices. Brazil’s corn production dropped from 94.5 million tons to 89 million tons. Argentine corn and soybean production took an even bigger hit. I see in Agri-Pulse Daybreak that Brazilian livestock producers want their government to lift tariffs on U.S. corn imports. Amazing! Do they really need our corn?
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – negotiations with Mexico and Canada will resume on May 7. There is optimism that they will end soon on a positive note. President Trump sent his top team to China to work through our trade conflict with that country. My fingers are crossed! Weather and trade have the power to make or break our industry. The National Corn Growers Association Chairman Wesley Spurlock got it right, “We need these trade negotiations to get done and ring certainty and stability back in to the markets.”
Another serious concern is the availability of farm workers. President Trump said, “We are going to let your guest workers come in.” I understand the effort to streamline and expand the H-2A Visa Program, but that may be easier said than done.
A surprising bit of information from Riverside County, California: “Farm workers with guest visas have increased tenfold in 2 years.” Increasingly, the people picking the fruits and vegetables are young, foreign-born and in the U.S. legally, on a temporary guest visa. That’s good.
More uncertainty – our farm bill runs out this year. Will we get a new one? What will it look like? The House Ag Committee has written a farm bill and Senator Mitch McConnell says he intends to bring a bill to the Senate floor. Let’s remember the House and Senate both need to get their bills passed by the full House and Senate. Then, the differences in the bills need to be ironed out and passed by both Houses. The President’s signature will make it law. It’s not going to be easy.
In spite of our concerns, we will not give up.