By Representative Adrian Smith
Our nation faces unprecedented economic challenges, and rural communities are certainly not immune. Agriculture plays a critical role in the economic outlook of Nebraska, and certainly our country and the entire world. In fact, the typical Nebraska farmer feeds 155 people per year, a great source of pride for our state. So, it goes without saying the next Farm Bill is critically important to Nebraska's agriculture economy, and we must get it right.
Because of the wide range of issues covered in the Farm Bill, it is important I gather feedback from Nebraska's farmers and ranchers. To this end, I invite you to participate in my Farm Bill Listening Tour which begins March 12th. More details about my tour stops, which are all open to the public, can be found on my website: http://adriansmith.house.gov/FarmBill.
The Farm Bill is to be reauthorized in 2012, but legislation has not yet been drafted. Given the challenges passing the last Farm Bill, it is important to start working now. Though election year politics makes legislating difficult, there appears to be a strong, bipartisan desire to get a Farm Bill done this year.
The Farm Bill covers a broad range of agricultural policies and programs, including farm credit, conservation, rural development, and foreign and domestic food assistance programs. Though most news coverage of the legislation references its impact on agriculture, nutrition programs such as food stamps account for more than 75 percent of Farm Bill spending.
Our ultimate goal should be creating policies which strengthen American agriculture and provide the long-term stability our producers need to grow our rural communities. Producers also need a workable bill which offers tools for responsible risk management. The next Farm Bill provides another opportunity to strengthen these vital commitments.
The Farm Bill also must take into account the growing impact of international trade on our economy. Expanded trade remains one of our best tools to generate economic growth and is vitally important to Nebraska's agricultural producers. For example, as result of our free trade agreement with South Korea which goes into effect March 15th, the tariff on U.S. beef exports will be lowered from 40 percent to zero.
As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, opening access to new markets for our agriculture producers continues to be a top legislative priority for me. We have worked together on a bipartisan basis to advance multiple initiatives which will allow farmers, ranchers, and other businesses in Nebraska to expand, create jobs, invest in new technology, and grow our economy through trade. I appreciated the dialogue I had with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at a recent committee hearing and his commitment to further opening international markets. We will continue to pursue new opportunities and implement the recently passed free trade agreements.
Our nation's agriculture producers embody the can-do spirit which makes America great. They feed the world and continue to be one of the brightest parts of our nation's economy. The rural way of life is changing, and I believe now is the time for Congress to listen to the farmers and ranchers who, literally, have their boots on the ground. I look forward to input from over the coming weeks on my tour.