In a video message to a sector that overwhelmingly voted against him, President Biden told farmers on Monday, “you have a partner in the White House” who is pursuing agricultural prosperity and fair prices in the marketplace. Biden, who slammed meatpackers for making huge profits during the pandemic has pointed to a $1B proposal to expand slaughter capacities and to maintain ag exports flowing despite port congestion.
“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, red states or blue states. It’s about making sure that your contributions are recognized and your challenges are addressed.” Biden said in the video played at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Atlanta. “Every day, you feed and fuel our country. I want you to know that every day—I mean this —every day you have a partner in the White House.”
Immediately after the video, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spent a half an hour onstage describing administration activities, ranging from hard-nosed trade talks with China to “creating new revenue streams” so farmers get paid for climate mitigation. He also touted an initiative to double, by 2030, the amount of land planted in cover crops during fallow seasons to limit erosion and nutrient runoff. That would bring the total to 30 million acres, equaling 9% of the land devoted to “principal” U.S. crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.
Climate-smart agriculture includes cover crops. These are used to reduce water pollution. Through the cost-sharing Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the USDA will provide incentives of $38 million to 11 states that are highly interested in cover crops.
Vilsack, who owns farmland in Iowa, began his speech by saying “I am a member” of the Farm Bureau. AFBF president Sonny Duvall said “the phone always rings when USDA is considering important policy…When I text the secretary, he texts me back. When I call the secretary, he calls me back.”
In the 2020 election, rural America voted 2-to-1 in favor of former president Trump. Because voters in 2020 almost ignored third-party candidates, his margin over the Democratic nominee in 2020 was slightly higher than in 2016. “Trump had the most growth among rural voters,” compared to his vote margins in major metropolitan areas, their surrounding suburbs, medium-size cities, outlying suburbs and small cities, said the Daily Yonder.
Farmers, who are traditionally conservative, remained loyal to Trump during the Sino-U.S. Trade War. They saw the drop in ag exports and the subsequent trade war as a short-term price for the long-term reform of Chinese trade practices. The so-called Phase One Agreement de-escalated trade war in early 2020 but did not resolve the underlying issues. China was required to significantly increase its purchases of U.S. products and services by the agreement.
“Our Chinese friends are about $16 billion light over what they committed to purchase” in agricultural exports, said Vilsack. U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai “continues to converse with China about the necessity of living up totally and completely to phase one, making up that $16 billion deficit over the course of the next several years,” said Vilsack. “We’re going to continue to press China on the need for complete enforcement and implementation of the trade agreement before we begin the process of discussing the possibility of extensions.”
Phase one set a goal that China would import $80 million of U.S. agricultural, food, and seafood products between 2020-2021. The actual tally was $56.3 billion with one month left in the agreement, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which has tracked purchases.
Biden referred during his three-minute video to a meeting with farmers a week ago to discuss competition in the meat industry, where cattle, hog and poultry slaughter is dominated by a handful of big companies, and to his executive order last July for federal agencies to promote competition. Biden, in his first comment on the proposal, supported legislation in Congress to improve transparency in cattle pricing.
Trump spoke to the AFBF conventions in three consecutive years, with the last one in 2020. He was the first president of the United States to address the organization in over a quarter century.
Source: Successful Farming