While the turbulence of Hurricane Florence swirled about the perimeter of Washington, D.C., a group of Oklahoma farm leaders dealt with a different turbulence inside the Capitol beltway. Terry Detrick, AFR/OFU president, lead a delegation on a four-day lobbying effort Sept. 11-14, focusing on the farm bill and trade war. The Oklahomans were participating in the annual NFU Fly In, which saw a record number of participants this year.
The current farm bill expires Sept. 30 and Detrick said farmers need the new farm bill passed quickly.
“We need the certainty and stability of a new farm program, Detrick said. “As our farmers plant their winter wheat crop it is important to know there will continue to be an adequate safety net.”
USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue addressed the farmers during a session in the USDA auditorium and agreed on the need to have a farm income safety net.
Perdue told the farmers he is working to expand markets as they search to replace the hole left by the trade spat with China. Perdue defended the tariffs by pointing his finger at China.
“China has not been playing by the rules,” Perdue said. He cited their track record for stealing trade secrets such as corn genetics and other technology.
Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, told the group China is the biggest challenge. He noted China’s large grain subsidies which lead to surpluses weighing on the global market.
“China must understand they have be to a better partner in global economy when it comes to supply and demand,” Doud said.
Doud, who grew up on a Kansas farm, said he understands the pain of the current trade war but said we “must deal with China.”
“There is never a good time to do this, but now is the time,” Doud said.
He said China has laid out a plan to dominate in several industrial sectors, including agricultural machinery.
“They intend to build and dominate that sector by 2025,” Doud said. “This is why President Trump has said now is the time to do something.”
Doud said there is a large imbalance of trade between China and the U.S.
The Oklahoma group visited each of their congressional offices where, in addition to the farm bill and trade war, they talked about rural health care, crop insurance and trucking regulations.
“I feel like our congressmen understand the issues and it was nice to be able to sit down face-to-face with them,” Adam Wyatt, Chattanooga, said. “When the opportunity arises, we need to have these conversations and have our voices heard.”
For David Zummallen, Okarche, it was his first opportunity to visit the nation’s Capital and he wanted to take full advantage by discussing rural health care.
“There are a lot of rural hospitals faced with closure and I would like to see fewer restrictions on Medicaid spending,” Zummallen said. “Health care is vitally important to rural areas and the hospitals play a critical role.”