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NAFTA, CAFTA , Republicans = Harmful for Kansas Farmers

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NAFTA, CAFTA , Republicans = Harmful for Kansas Farmers

(Kansas Congressional District 1)
by John Doll
Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 07:42:42 PM PDT

Agriculture is not only integral to very history and culture of Kansas, it is absolutely fundamental to our state's economic success.

Making all Kansans proud, our farmers lead our nation in the production of wheat and sorghum, and rank a close second to the top in cattle and calves. Our vibrant agricultural industry produces enormous variety, with substantial production in corn, soybean, sunflower, hogs and pigs, pheasants, dairy, hay, and many other essential products.

I am running for Congress, hoping to represent the 69 counties in western and central Kansas, most of which are primarily agricultural. I will always speak out on behalf of the family farmers in Kansas, to promote the needs of agriculture, and in opposition to market concentration.

* John Doll's diary :: ::

It is time for far more innovative and concrete action from your legislature in order to save, protect, and grow our family farms in Kansas. I will recommend the targeting of research funds toward the needs of small and medium-sized family farms, and, I will continuously push for a small farms advocates in the USDA that are truly dedicated to protecting the interests of small farmers.

The rising cost of inputs and interest rates also harms our Kansas farmers. Increases in natural gas, diesel, and gasoline have had a negative impact on farm financial conditions. Plus, the costs of trucks, equipment, irrigation motors, and nitrogen fertilizer are closely linked to energy prices. As a result of these rising costs, feed and grain farms are seeing about a 30% reduction in net income. Beef cattle operations are experiencing about a 10% decrease in net farm income, also. Our wheat and feed grain farms are, in particular, in stress and suffering from decline in financial viability.

Kansas farmers are concerned about the growth of large-scale agribusiness, and with good reason. The increased market concentration created by these huge companies means fewer economic opportunities for the men and women who actually produce the grain, livestock, and dairy products in Kansas. I will advocate legislation to strengthen and expand agricultural anti-trust laws. This is important to ensure that our farmers get a fair price for their products. Additionally, Kansas farmers need the support and protection of the legislature in future bills to ensure that farmers have fair opportunities and arbitration processes to resolve disputes and contractual problems with agribusinesses.

I will also advance initiatives to ensure that our farmers compete on a fair playing field in the international marketplace, and, at the same time, ensure that our own American consumers can continue to benefit from the high-quality products that Kansas farmers produce.

America's agricultural imports have soared in recent years, while the US agricultural trade surplus has plummeted. The current Administration is failing to meet its obligation to the public to provide a complete analysis of what trade agreements have actually meant for rural economies. And, it is failing to offer remedies or relief. Since NAFTA, the US trade surplus in agricultural products, which once was the flagship of our exports, has declined significantly. That trend is most profound with NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico.

While our exports to Canada and Mexico have grown modestly, imports into the US from those countries have grown much faster. The NAFTA have had track records of broken promises for Kansas farmers and ranchers. While farmers were promised they could export their way to lasting economic success, our US consumers were promised lower food prices. The promised benefits never materialized: farm income has declined, and consumer prices have risen while some agribusinesses have seen record profits. All have had a devastating effect on Kansas farmers. Our farmers have little reason to expect more CAFTA.

In addition to traditional commodity sales programs, food aid can be a valuable tool in market development for Kansan farmers. Surplus stocks of grain and other commodities should be used for distribution to less-developed nations.

Existing agricultural export finance programs and other financing institutions, such as the Export-Import Bank, should be bolstered to assist Kansas producers in capturing foreign agriculture sales. I believe that the USDA should also be expected to do far more for farmers in promoting agricultural exports. Congress, the USDA, and state agricultural trade officials should work in a coordinated effort. State legislatures should be consulted on the development of trade policies and kept abreast by the USDA of evaluations of their efficacy and economic impact.

We need expanded export markets for Kansas products. I will work hard to open new foreign markets and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy. For example, although the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 allowed US food and agricultural products into Cuba for the first time in forty years - the complex bureaucracy and uncertainty of exporting to Cuba keeps our sales lower than they should be. At best, the complicated restrictions cause fluctuation and unpredictability. I will advocate a lessening of these restrictions on our exports to Cuba.

My dedication to fair trade and improved exporting will include attention to working tirelessly to for relief from Japan's beef embargo. For our part, Congress should also require that no future embargos be placed on agricultural exports by the US. The costs to Kansas farmers is too high now to ever repeat the mistake made forty years ago with Cuba.

The legislature should do more. Congress should expand Trade Adjustment Assistance programs and offer new subsidies, such as environmental conservation, alternate crop conversion, or conversion to non-farm income sources, in order to help Kansas farm communities adapt, adjust to, and fully exploit new agricultural markets. Congress should require the Administration to support only those trade agreements that similarly open markets to American agricultural exports.

If any of our trading partners refuse to remove unnecessary trade barriers or persist in violations of international trade laws and agreements, Congress should require our government to restrict their imports of agricultural products or livestock into this country. To enhance agricultural exports, Congress should support an aggressive market development effort for agricultural products, including the use of export credits.

Kansas readers, next week we will upload a brand new website. I'll announce it here.

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