As the 2018 Farm Bill heads to the desk of President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is standing by his vote against what he referred to as “status quo” legislation.
The legislation passed the Senate 87-13 on Tuesday and 369-47 the next day in the House of Representatives. The president is expected to sign it.
Kind, a La Crosse Democrat who is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means - Health and Trade Subcommittees, said in a statement Wednesday that the bill will drive more family farmers out of business.
The $867 billion bill includes the consolidation of several existing trade and export promotion programs and a change to organic certification requirements for imported agricultural products. It will also increase the limits for farm ownership and operating loans, and it will require farmers to choose between two new crop insurance programs, among other measures.
“This bill actually encourages more overproduction with an increase in huge taxpayer subsidies going to big agri-business, which encourages them to produce even more,” Kind said in an interview. “That drives commodity prices down further and it forces our family farmers into bankruptcy.”
The bill does nothing to address the damage caused by Trump’s trade war, which has caused the price of agri-products that could have been exported to drop as they add to the already existing surplus of goods in the U.S., according to Kind, whose 3rd District had 19,895 farms in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
A 90-day ceasefire in the trade war between the United States and China was called during the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the beginning of December, but not before the five-month standoff between the two superpowers and subsequent tariffs on soybeans took a toll on the U.S. agriculture market.
It’s difficult to tease out the economic impact of a situation such as this when you’re in the middle of it, but the trade war between the U.S. and China has depressed the demand for soybean production, said Taggert Brooks, chairman of the economics department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Simply put, soybean farmers are losing money, Brooks said.
Soybeans are the Minnesota’s biggest commodity export, and fourth-largest in Wisconsin, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but the new Farm Bill does not include long-term subsidies for farmers who were negatively affected by soybean tariffs.
On the floor of the House on Wednesday, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., disagreed with Kind’s assertion that the bill does nothing to address the damage caused by the trade war.
“During a time when rural America is facing a downturn in the farm economy and a trade war that’s taking its toll on crop, livestock and dairy producers from coast to coast, this bill will provide needed certainty to farmers and ranchers,” Peterson said.
Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, agreed, saying the bill is “critical to farmers and consumers alike and provides consistent policy for the next five years” in a statement released on Wednesday.
The president of Wisconsin’s Farmer’s Union, Darin Von Ruden, also expressed enthusiasm — but not without reservations. He said in a statement that the passage of the bill is welcome news in the farming community, but it isn’t a silver bullet that will solve the farm crisis that has put hundreds of Wisconsin dairy farmers out of business this year.
The agricultural community and political leaders still have to create meaningful solutions that will dig farmers out from under the depressed farm economy, Von Ruden said.
Kind expressed little optimism about the legislation. “My prediction is we’re going to see more farm bankruptcies as a consequence of this (bill),” he said.
Wisconsin’s senators split on the Farm Bill: Democrat Tammy Baldwin voted for it, Republican Ron Johnson against.
In the House, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan and Republican Reps. Glenn Grothman and Sean Duffy voted for it. Kind and Wisconsin Republican Reps. James Sensenbrenner and Mike Gallagher opposed the bill.
Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore and House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t vote.
The only member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to oppose the bill was Republican Rep. Jason Lewis. Democrats Tim Walz and Keith Ellison didn’t vote.