The future of agriculture relies upon the ability of young people to maintain and grow their farms and ranches. While the recent downturn in the agricultural economy could lead one to be pessimistic about the future, after a recent National Affairs visit to Washington D.C., the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, continue to remain optimistic about the years ahead.
“Given the importance of agriculture to the overall health of Nebraska’s economy, it isn’t hard to see why Nebraska has successfully weathered and even prospered through the economic uncertainty of the past. Yet, recent USDA projections of an over 30 percent reduction in net farm income, as compared to 2013, along with continued tax and regulatory challenges, could signal trouble on the horizon. These continued challenges make it more important than ever for our state’s young farmers and ranchers to speak out about the challenges they face on their operations,” Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau said.
“Of particular concern is a 33 percent rise in operating debt since 2012. As farmers and ranchers are adding debt, they have also been drawing down financial assets, such as cash or equity. Young and new farmers and ranchers are of particular concern as their ability to handle such a downturn is significantly less than a well-established farmer or rancher,” Nelson said.
However, with great challenges comes even greater opportunities. Throughout the trip, increased agricultural trade, Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), was highlighted as a way to provide a necessary boost to the agricultural economy. Passage of TPP continues to be a Farm Bureau priority. According to analysis conducted by the American Farm Bureau (AFBF), the TPP will increase annual net farm income by $4.4 billion and increase U.S. agricultural exports by $5.3 billion per year.
“Nebraska also stands to make significant annual gains from the TPP with a $378.5 million increase in ag cash receipts and a $229.2 million boost to ag exports. According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau analysis, Cuming, Custer, Platte, Dawson, and Lincoln counties would be among the biggest winners under TPP, as those counties would each experience more than $10 million in additional cash sales of agriculture commodities per year once TPP trade protocols are fully enacted. Congress needs to pass the TPP quickly as we continue to lose market share in many of the TPP member nations each day this agreement is not in place,” Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chairman Todd Reed said.
Another issue front and center during the trip was the GMO Labeling bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives while the group was in town. This important piece of legislation will help provide certainty to food companies who would have been unable to work through a patchwork of state GMO labeling laws.
“As with all compromises, there are pieces we like and pieces we don’t. The bill’s mandatory nature continues to be a problem for us, however we simply could not allow a system of state-based GMO labeling to occur. While not perfect, the Roberts-Stabenow compromise bill will set a national standard on GMO labeling utilizing digital disclosure technologies,” Reed said.
Besides visiting with Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers met with the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss recently released rules regarding the commercial use of “unmanned aircraft systems”, or “drones”, and met with CropLife America and Syngenta to discuss the latest efforts to remove the well-known product Atrazine from their toolbox of crop protection products.
“The list of challenges young farmers and ranchers face is no doubt long. However, the need for young producers to answer the call of growing food for our nation and world remains as strong as ever. Continuing to communicate our message to key decision makers is vital to the future success of our nation as well as for farm and ranch families,” Reed said.
Those attending the National Affairs visit are:
Steve Nelson, president Nebraska Farm Bureau – Kearney/Franklin County
Todd and Julie Reed, chairman YF&R Committee – Lancaster County
Brian and Amy Gould, District 3 representative YF&R Committee – Cedar County
Matt and Elizabeth Albrecht, District 7 representative YF&R Committee – Dawson County
James and Katie Olson, District 6 representative YF&R Committee – Holt County