FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2018
Contact: Hannah Packman, 202-554-1600
WASHINGTON – In a letter sent today to congressional leadership, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson emphasized the need to address agricultural economic hardships in the 2018 Farm Bill. The NFU Board of Directors unanimously approved the motion to send this letter during a meeting held Monday afternoon.
“Net farm income is less than half of what it was in 2014 when Congress passed the last farm bill,” wrote NFU President Roger Johnson. “Indicators of stress, including debt to asset ratios, net farm income, debt servicing capacity, and other factors, paint a grim picture of the financial health of farms nationwide.”
An escalating global trade war and uncertainty in export markets has pushed prices even lower in the last month, thus exacerbating farmers’ financial stress. “Soybean, corn, and wheat farmers alone have lost $13 billion in market value,” Johnson offered as examples. “Prices paid to dairy farmers are comparable to prices received in the 1980s, forcing an alarming number of dairy farms out of business.”
To add insult to injury, as Johnson notes, farmers and ranchers are also subject to the unintended consequences of steel and aluminum tariffs. “In addition to price declines, producers are now coping with cost increases, especially on farm equipment and machinery, which often rely on steel and aluminum.”
The severity of the situation has not gone unnoticed by the administration: last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would allocate $12 billion in emergency assistance to producers most impacted by trade tensions. Though Johnson expressed appreciation for the gesture, he stressed that it was not enough. “Paying farmers small, one-time, fixed payments is woefully inadequate to keep farmers in business,” he said. “The administration’s actions will have long-term effects on our markets, necessitating a long-term safety net.”
Johnson continued the letter by urging Congress to provide “substantive and long-term relief to farmers.” In particular, he asked that they “provide the agriculture committees with substantially greater resources to be incorporated into the 2018 Farm Bill, including the ability to manage farm inventories to be more responsive to market conditions.”
“Congressional inaction will have very tangible and harmful impacts as farmers and ranchers get closer to fall harvest,” Johnson concluded. “We urge you to take strong action on behalf of American farmers and ranchers.”
Farmers and farm advocates interested in advocating a strong farm bill are encouraged to visit 2018FarmBill.org to learn more about the farm bill and information on how to contact members of Congress.
To download an audio file of Roger Johnson’s quotes, visit our website at nfu.org/audio.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.