Getting cotton back into the farm bill as a covered commodity, shoring up provisions for the dairy industry and tweaking the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program are the three biggest priorities going into negotiations over the 2018 farm bill, a key congressional leader told farmers at Commodity Classic Friday.
U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, a Republican from Texas, also emphasized his commitment to getting the new farm bill finished on schedule, unlike last time.
But at a time when the new Trump Administration is facing multi-trillion-dollar debt while promising huge investments in infrastructure and military programs, will agriculture be expected offer up budget offsets as they hammer out a deal?
Conaway was noncommittal.
“We’ll see. (We’re) $20 trillion in debt, the president has proposed a lot of new spending. There’s a lot of balls in the air at any one point and time. No one has a real good feel yet (about how the process will play out),” he said. “We’re just going to keep telling our story to as many people who will listen, and to the right people.”
Regarding the Trump administration’s tough talk on trade, pulling out of the TPP and threatening to renegotiate NAFTA, two multi-lateral pacts largely popular with production agriculture, Conaway emphasized the clock is ticking on any new agreements.
“I was in a conversation with one of President Trump’s top economic advisors three or four weeks ago,” he said. “I said we need to talk trade, because it’s vital to production agriculture. (Conaway told the advisor), ‘So, we walked away from TPP, and most production agriculture thought that was good, except rice and tobacco. We now know what a good deal looks like.”
Conaway then told the Trump advisor he’s “anxious” to see how any future bilateral deals beat the TPP and NAFTA in the benefits they bring to ag exports.
“Time is of the essence. China is not standing on the sidelines while we get our act together. They’re going to move forward with whatever deals they get done. And to the extent they’ll cut us out, they’ll certainly do that,” he said.\