On Tuesday, President Trump issued a detailed fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal. The $4.1 trillion proposal, subtitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” increases military, border security, and infrastructure spending by $717 billion while cutting non-defense discretionary spending by $4.3 trillion. Over ten years, the plan is projected to cut federal spending by $3.6 trillion.
The proposal would drastically cut agriculture- and rural-related agencies and programs. Farm bill programs would be cut by nearly $230 billion, slashing crop insurance by $29 billion, conservation programs by $6 billion, and SNAP by $191 billion, in addition to $3 billion in cuts to other farm programs. Additionally, the budget recommends cutting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) discretionary spending, which funds rural development, food safety, conservation, and research, by $4.7 billion, or 21 percent.
In addition to cuts to farm and rural programs, the proposal stands to worsen access to healthcare for rural residents by cutting Medicaid by $800 billion, a move that would disproportionately impact rural residents who enroll in the program at a higher rate than their urban counterparts. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides essential environmental services and pesticide approval, would lose 31% of its current budget.
President Trump’s proposed budget is an assault on the programs and personnel that provide vital services, research, and a safety net to America’s family farmers, rural residents and consumers. It is deeply disappointing that the President would propose such cuts, especially in the midst of a farm crisis that has family farmers and ranchers enduring a drastic, four-year slide in farm prices and a 50 percent drop in net farm income.
Read more about the proposed budget in this NFU statement.
During his campaign for presidency, Donald Trump often criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a more than two-decade old trade deal between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. His platform included a promise to either renegotiate NAFTA, which he frequently referred to as the “worst trade deal ever,” to better serve the American economy or, if unable to do so, withdraw from the agreement entirely.
Since inauguration, President Trump has wavered between the two options. In April, he was reportedly preparing to scrap the deal, but just hours later announced plansto renegotiate instead. Last Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified Congress of the administration’s intentions to reopen NAFTA. In particular, Lighthizer emphasized the need to modernize NAFTA so it supports higher-paying jobs in the United States and grows the U.S. economy. Due to trade promotion authority (TPA), or “fast track,” that Congress passed in 2015, the administration must wait until August 16 to begin renegotiations.
Over the past several decades, the United States has entered into free trade agreements with 20 countries, maintaining a consistent trade agreement framework that has advanced the interests of multinational corporations at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, and rural workers. This free trade framework began with the U.S. entering into NAFTA in 1994. The renegotiation provides the administration with a unique opportunity to reset the U.S. trade agenda to prioritize U.S. sovereignty, balanced and fair trade, and Country-of Origin Labeling (COOL). NFU is urging President Trump to do this in a manner that preserves and expands American agriculture’s positive trade relationships
Farm Aid’s documentary film on the 1980s farm crisis, Homeplace Under Fire premiered on May 18 in Durham, North Carolina. The event was hosted by John Mellencamp, who, along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, helped organize the first Farm Aid concert in 1985. After the film, he joined a panel discussion with film director Charles Thompson, farm advocate Benny Bunting, North Carolina farmers Curtis and Valerie Byrum, Scott Marlow of Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Shirley Sherrod of Southwest Georgia Project and RAFI Board, Savi Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project, and Carolyn Mugar of Farm Aid.
In addition to retelling the circumstances of the 1980s farm crisis, the film highlights those who emerged as farm advocates to “work one-on-one with farmers to help them navigate the complex world of farm lending, state and federal regulations, contracts, and government programs in a way that increases their chance to stay on the land and be successful.”
Farm Aid’s film is timely, as another farm crisis is upon us. This year, net farm income is forecast to be just half of what it was four years ago, and the lowest it has been in well over a decade. Farm debt is forecast to increase by 5.2 percent, while farm asset values are forecast to decline by 1.1 percent in 2017. At the same time, Farm Aid has reported a 27 percent increase in calls and emails to its helpline in the last year, with a significant increase in reports of bankruptcy and issues with Farm Service Agency.
Before the screening, Barbara Patterson, NFU’s Director of Government Relations, and Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation, met with a number of farm organizations, including Farm Aid, RAFI-USA, and the Land Loss Prevention Project, as well as established and burgeoning farm advocates to discuss solutions to the current state of affairs. Among the top priorities is supporting new advocates who will help farmers save their farms.
For resources, news, and information about the current farm crisis, visit NFU’s Farm Crisis Center.
Support the Farmer Fair Practices Rules
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released rules that will provide very basic protections for livestock producers and poultry growers. These rules, known as the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, are being held up by the current administration, so we need your help to get them on the books!
Please consider sending your comments to the USDA today. Submitting comments is fast and easy – click here to learn how and for more information about the rules. Comments are due by June 12, 2017!
Women Leaders in Food and Agriculture: Sign a Letter to Federal Secretaries
Women Leaders in Food an Agriculture, a group founded by female farmers, writers, researchers, educators, policy makers, and chefs, has penned a letter to federal secretaries. The letter outlines an agenda for the future of food and agricultural policy, urging the secretaries to prioritize creating fair agriculture jobs, reforming immigration, supporting sustainable farming practices, supporting independent family farms, and fostering diverse and resilient food systems.
If you are a woman in food and agriculture, we encourage you to sign the letter here.
America’s farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.
Producers who are new to farming or who did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).
New on the NFU Climate Column: Methane Digesters
Agricultural carbon offsets have made significant strides in the past decade with improved quantification methodologies and the adoption of ag-based protocols by the California Air Resource’s Board (ARB).
The American Carbon Registry has been actively working with farmers and project developers to implement anaerobic digesters, which allow dairy operations to decrease emissions via enhanced manure management. To date, just over 3.4 million metric tons of carbon offsets from livestock projects have been issued by ARB to be sold in California’s cap and trade program. That is the equivalent of taking 718,000 cars off the road or unplugging 502,000 American homes.
New on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column: Rural Development
One of the principles driving National Farmers Union is our dedication to the communities in which food producers live and work. Vibrant rural communities are essential to the success of family farm operations, and the flourishing family farms are essential to the prosperity of rural communities.
The relationship between family farms and rural communities is so strong that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains the Rural Development (RD) agency, which offers an extensive menu of community-directed programs that are designed to bolster the economic well-being and quality of life for rural communities. Unfortunately, the recently proposed USDA reorganization, coupled with the President’s budget proposal, could lead to significant changes in RD and weaken its support to the communities where producers live.
The national farm economy is deteriorating, forcing many family farmers and ranchers to make tough financial decisions that will impact their families, communities, and the entire country.
In order to provide farmers with the resources and support needed to endure these tough economic conditions, National Farmers Union (NFU) and Farmers Union state divisions have compiled resources, organized listening sessions, and initiated a national campaign to raise awareness for the current farm crisis.
“We’re in the midst of a farm crisis,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Net farm income has been cut in half over the past four years, and other indicators point to intense, ongoing stress within our rural communities. Importantly, there is no foreseeable end to these tough conditions. Farmers, ranchers, and their communities are bracing for very hard times, and Farmers Union is going to be there to help them through it.”
Highlighting the important work carried out by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, National Farmers Union (NFU) and a diverse coalition of rural organizations are calling on Congress to prevent any attempt to eliminate the Rural Development Mission Area (RD) and the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development.
The groups outlined their concerns in a letter to members of Congress today. The letter follows a proposed reorganization of USDA by the Trump Administration, which would eliminate Rural Development as a core mission area and replace the Under Secretary for Rural Development with a Special Assistant.
“Rural America is much more than production agriculture,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers need vibrant rural communities because they provide desirable amenities and jobs. Underfunding, understaffing or demoting the Rural Development Mission Area within USDA would cause real harm to programs that benefit farming and rural communities.”
NFU Disappointed by House Vote for AHCA, Calls on Senate to Reject the Bill
WASHINGTON (May 4, 2017) – The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to approve the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill that would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, lessen protections for those with preexisting conditions, and adversely affect family farmers and rural Americans.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response:
“NFU has long advocated for the right to affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans. Because AHCA would both hinder access to health insurance for millions of people as well as drastically impair the effectiveness and affordability of rural healthcare, we are deeply disappointed by today’s House vote to approve the bill. We urge the Senate to reject this legislation.”
The NFU Beginning Farmer Forum is a community of farmers, ranchers, educators, policy makers, and the general public that share common knowledge and interest in helping beginning farmers and ranchers overcome the challenges to starting and sustaining a farming operation in the U.S. It hopes to spread awareness about these challenges, provide insight into how they can be addressed at local, state and national policy levels, and share current resources and tools that benefit.
Join the Beginning Farmer Forum on Facebook to connect with hundreds of other farmers and contribute to the conversation.
NFU Farm Safety Video Series
NFU released a series of farm safety videos in 2016. Through these 10 short videos, we hope to build mass awareness to farm safety issues and contribute to reducing the number of annual farm-related accidents.
Visit our website (http://nfu.org/farmsafety) to find all of the videos that pertain to your operation, and share with your friends, family and neighbors to help prevent farm-related accidents and casualties! You can also order them here on DVD or USB.
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Consider Farmers Before Agribusiness Mergers
Extreme concentration in the agribusiness sector has long threatened the wellbeing of farmers and ranchers. A recent wave of consolidation in the agricultural inputs sector has farmers particularly on edge, with three major proposed mergers: Dow-Dupont, Bayer-Monsanto and ChemChina-Syngenta. If all three are approved, it would limit major players in the agrichemical and seed sectors to just four companies. The resulting reduction in concentration would decrease innovation, increase input costs, and limit choice for farmers.
In January, NFU was alarmed when then-President-elect Donald Trump met with Bayer AG, a German agricultural input company. During that meeting, the two parties struck a deal, committing Bayer to invest $8 billion towards research and development, should the company be permitted to acquire competitor Monsanto Co. This deal suggesed the administration’s tacit approval of the Bayer-Monsanto merger, which would occur at the expense of family farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the timing of this meeting was troublesome, as it occurred before the President-elect had selected his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. This left many concerned that after inauguration, President Trump would continue to prioritize the needs of agribusiness over those of rural communities.
Similarly, NFU was worried by the approval of the proposed merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. by the European Union, and urged the Trump administration to block the deal. The merger of Dow and DuPont, the 4th and 5th largest firms, would give the resulting company about 41% of the market for corn seeds and 38% of the market for soybean seeds. If the Dow-DuPont and Bayer-Monsanto mergers were both approved, there would effectively be a duopoly in the corn and soybean seed markets.
In early April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for eliminating and preventing anticompetitive business practices, approved ChemChina’s $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta, provided that it divest production of three pesticides. In the following days, the merger received the green light from the European Commission, the Comisión Federal de Competencia Económica in Mexico, and China’s Ministry of Commerce. Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense and Canada’s Competition Bureau had previously approved the deal, leaving India as the only holdout as of early May. In response, President Roger Johnson submitted public comments to FTC Secretary Donald S. Clark, asserting that the deal further consolidates the highly globalized agricultural inputs sector. Johnson also expressed concern that the deal would give the resulting conglomerate an unfair advantage in accessing Chinese markets, as ChemChina is owned by the Chinese government.
NFU Advocates for Science-Based Environmental Policy
In his first four months as president, Donald Trump has made a number of changes to U.S. environmental policy, including a reversal of Obama-era regulations intended to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. He has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, although it is currently unclear whether or not he will follow through.
In mid-April, NFU President Roger Johnson sent President Trump a letter, urging him to maintain the United States’ commitments under the Paris Agreement, an international framework to address climate change. Climate change, by severely altering average temperatures and weather patterns, jeopardizes American food security and the livelihoods of American family farmers, ranchers and rural residents. The Paris Agreement is vital to enhancing the climate resiliency of family farm operations and rural communities, and it allows family farmers and ranchers to join carbon sequestration efforts that stimulate economic growth in rural America.
On Earth Day, April 22, National Farmers Union joined the first-ever March for Science, organized to celebrate science, call for science that upholds the common good, and demand evidence-based policies in the public interest. NFU President Roger Johnson addressed the crowd at the flagship event in Washington, D.C., emphasizing the importance of science-based policy for the success of America’s farmers and ranchers. He also voiced support for publicly funded, independent, and peer-reviewed agricultural research to inform both farmers and policymakers.
The following weekend, on Trump’s 100th day in office, NFU joined 200,000 people at the People’s Climate March in the nation’s capital to show the world and U.S. leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities, and our planet. The day before the march, Tom Driscoll, NFU’s Director of Conservation Policy, spoke at a climate science and solutions forum hosted by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. Driscoll discussed why farmers care about climate change, and presented many practices that farmers can implement to both mitigate and adapt to its effects.
Trump Administration Neglects Rural Communities
In May, President Trump issued a detailed fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal, calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture- and rural-related agencies and programs.
Among his recommendations is a $4.7 billion cut to USDA, which equates to a 21 percent drop for programs that serve rural and farming communities across the U.S. This huge cut to discretionary spending puts rural development, food safety, conservation and research programs on the chopping block. Additionally, the blueprint provides for a $2.6 billion cut to EPA funding. This 31 percent drop guts the agency’s ability to provide essential environmental services and pesticide approval.
Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade, as well as an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. Further cuts to agencies and programs that provide support to agriculture and rural communities will compound the difficulties farmers endure, particularly during the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing.
To compound these concerns, President Donald Trump has failed to address many of the other concerns of rural communities. For instance, his plans to replace the “current system of lower-skilled immigration” has many farmers and ranchers on edge, as it neglects the unique and important contribution of immigrant laborers to our national food system and rural economies. Farmers are similarly concerned about the proposed changes in national health insurance policy. Notably, motions to cut support to Medicaid would disproportionately affect rural residents, who enroll in the program at higher rates than their urban counterparts.
To this point, the president has put the needs of rural America and agriculture on the backburner, and, in many cases, on the chopping block. If the President intends to be a champion for all Americans, he must consider the real and lasting impacts of his policy agenda and budget on rural America and family farmers and ranchers.
Member Benefit Highlight: Wyndham Hotel Group
NFU members receive 20% off of the lowest regularly available public rate with Wyndham Hotel Group properties. The Wyndam Hotel Group contains many terrific brands, including: Ramada Worldwide, Days Inn, Wingate Inn, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Super 8, Baymont Inn, Microtel Inns and Suites, Hawthorn Suites and Knights Inn locations.
Visit nfu.org/join to become a member and start saving today.
Have you heard the term “telemedicine” recently and wondered what it is? Wonder no more! Telemedicine is a convenient new way to talk to a doctor 24 hours a day 7 days a week when you’re having non-emergency medical issues at home or anywhere else not close to a doctor’s office.
So how does it work? You get telemedicine when you sign up for the Wellness Access Card for a low $99 yearly fee for the entire family. You will then get access to a 24-hour physician phone line that lets you speak to a real doctor, who will make treatment recommendations and even write prescriptions over the phone for common sickness such as flu, sinus infections, respiratory infections, pink eye and more.
Telemedicine is a great option for those who live in rural areas far away from a doctor’s office. You don’t need to wait until the morning to visit the doctor if you’re feeling under the weather at night.
There are no age restrictions, and there are even pediatricians available for when your children get sick. On average we see 97% member satisfaction and 97% physician satisfaction. On average members receive a call back from the physician in 22 minutes and a guarantee call back within three hours.
All you have to do is sign up for the Wellness Access Card and choose whether you want a monthly or annual membership. Once enrolled you will receive your membership kit, which comes with the telemedicine phone number and specific instructions on how to use it. That’s it. No long forms to fill out. Simply call the number and get medical assistance.
Farmers Union Insurance has always been a community-based insurance provider. Founded by Farmers Union leaders in 1945, the company offers personalized, relationship-based service to farmers and rural residents across the Rocky Mountain and upper Midwest states. Last year alone Farmers Union Insurance provided more than 90,000 policies.
In 2005 Farmers Union Insurance was integrated into the Americas division of the international QBE Insurance Group. As part of the QBE family, Farmers Union Insurance continues to offer quality care and protection to policyholders. Together, QBE and Farmers Union work to maintain the Farmers Union brand to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents know that Farmers Union respects and supports their economic needs and livelihoods.
It is an exciting time for Farmers Union Insurance. By working with QBE, Farmers Union Insurance is poised to expand its offerings to new regions and enhance its product line. New products are ready to be rolled out under the Farmers Union brand that will allow family farmers, ranchers and rural residents to choose a policy that is better tailored for their needs. There are imminent plans to expand the geographic offering of Farmers Union Insurance beyond the current footprint and to further support our Nation’s rural communities.
Looking to get the most out of your insurance policy or know a farmer who is? Remember that by choosing a Farmers Union Insurance product you are supporting your state Farmers Union as well as National Farmers Union’s 114 year old effort to advocate on behalf of the American family farm.
Farmers Union members join for lots of different reasons, but a very fundamental reason is a business reason. They want to get added-value from their membership for their farming operation. In the states where Hasting Mutual Insurance Company operates, the added-value is a very high-quality health insurance partnership that provides many of the insurance products farmers across the country need.
Hastings Mutual provides members top farm insurance products as well as other great coverages including home, auto and commercial insurance. The company operates in six Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Last year alone, the partnership garnered over 500 new memberships in those states.
Know a farmer in one of these six states? Tell them to contact their state farmers union or a Hastings insurance agent in their area to receive discounts on their farm owners policy premium.
Watch the Hastings Mutual/NFU partnership video here.
Visit our website to learn more about your state farmers union. Call Hastings Mutual at 1-800-442-8277 to find an agent near you.