What a difference five years can make for farm bill advocatesBy Nick Tindall, AEM Senior Director, Government and Industry Relations

This time five years ago most commodity groups had a collective headache from banging their heads into a wall as they pushed, struggled and begged their members to engage in the budding farm bill reauthorization debate. Farm income was high and many believed a new paradigm of rising world population and prosperity meant low prices were a thing of the past. A robust safety net for agriculture was an antiquated idea.

What a difference five years can make.

That fact was abundantly clear at the recent Agri-Pulse Farm Bill Summit in Washington, D.C. which AEM helped sponsor. A  long list of key policy players, including the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate ag committees and commodity group executives, painted a very different picture of the rural economy that will frame the discussion of the 2018 farm bill. Motivating producer engagement should be the easy part this time around. Everything else, not so much.

The "to do" list for this farm bill is daunting. Dairy’s margin insurance needs a boost. Cotton, sugar, corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. … all have issues that require attention. And as if that wasn’t enough, we shouldn’t get our hopes up to have more money to do it all. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned conservation or research or nutrition program politics.   

Nor does it stop there. As Leif Magnusson, chair of AEM's Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative, AG Sector Board member and president of CLAAS Global Sales Americas Inc., pointed out, there is a dire need to improve rural America’s wireless broadband connectivity and transportation system if we hope to retain our competitive advantage in a world market.

We also must not forget that the implications of the above issues reach out far beyond the homestead. AEM has released an IHS Global Insights economic study on equipment manufacturing employment, updating data from a 2012 snapshot. It’s no surprise the report showed a loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the agricultural equipment sector.

Yes, it isn’t a pretty picture but don’t despair just yet.

While times are tough, the ag community has a history of getting tougher and getting going. An air of unity was on display at the summit that stretched not just across party lines but fence posts from commodity to commodity. We understand the only way ag will get the deal it needs is if we all stick together. And if we stick together, we cannot be beat.

AEM will be working over the next year to reinforce that message. Equipment manufacturers want and need all of agriculture to succeed and indeed, so does America and the world.

Just remember, what a difference five years can make. AEM is confident the farm bill discussion in 2022 will begin from a far better place.