FARM BUREAU CALLS FOR EXTENDING FARM BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The outcome of world trade talks must be known before beginning a new farm bill, said the head of the country's largest farm organization today. In testimony before Congress, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it is critical that a World Trade Organization agreement is finalized before changing farm policy.
"This approach provides U.S. trade representatives the strongest negotiating leverage," said Stallman. "If we reduce our domestic supports in an upcoming farm bill debate, we have less leverage to use to convince other countries to reduce their tariffs and export subsidies. Our strongest negotiating leverage is to maintain our current programs until we agree to a WTO round that is beneficial for agriculture."
Foreign tariffs average 62 percent on U.S. agricultural exports -- more than five times higher than the average U.S. imposed agriculture tariff of 12 percent. Additionally, the European Union uses 87 percent of the world's export subsidies, which severely disadvantages U.S. exports. The U.S. utilizes only 3 percent and the rest of the world uses the remaining 10 percent.
"Farmers and ranchers are willing to lower farm program payments via WTO negotiations if -- and only if -- they can secure increased opportunities to sell their products overseas," said Stallman. "However, we are not willing to unilaterally disarm."
Beyond the international trade implications and the loss of negotiating leverage, there are other reasons to extend this farm bill, said Stallman.
"The 2002 farm bill was carefully constructed to provide support for commodity, conservation, nutrition and export promotion programs. Congress struck a balance in funding each of those programs and it works," said Stallman. He also noted that the farm bill provides an adequate safety net to farmers and ranchers when commodity prices are low, and it continues to address the goal of producing a safe, abundant, domestic food supply.
Stallman encouraged members to take into account production expenses, such as fuel and fertilizer, which are expected to be much higher for the upcoming farm bill period. "With a significantly higher cost structure, and at a time when farmers are making investments to help secure our nation's energy future, changing the farm bill would be detrimental," he said.
"There is no question the existing farm bill is popular with farmers and ranchers throughout the country," said Stallman. "Continued maintenance of its structure and funding is a high priority for Farm Bureau."
The Alabama Farmers Federation is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation.