Amid uncertainty, time to pass new farm bill

A lobbyist for the Minnesota Farmers Union, Thom Peterson, says “the clock is ticking” for farmers. He was quoted in a recent Associated Press article on the status of the farm bill. He also said newspapers have been full of stories lately about farmers facing bankruptcy.

Peterson is not exaggerating. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 84 farms filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana during the 12 months that ended in June. The Star Tribune cited an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to tell how good the so-called tariff truce between China and the U.S. really is for our nation. President Donald Trump touted the agreement after his visit with China President Xi Jingping in Buenos Aires last weekend. Trump’s own administration raised doubts Tuesday about the substance of the trade cease-fire.

During the talks, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10 percent to 25 percent that had been set to take effect on Jan. 1. In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, the White House said China agreed to step up its purchases of U.S farm, energy and industrial goods. But economists warn that the two countries are still far apart on the sharpest areas of disagreement.

Farm country did receive positive news last week when lawmakers in Washington, D.C., announced an agreement in principle was reached on the farm bill. It governs farm subsidy and other agriculture programs.

Then, on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told reporters in South St. Paul that he is optimistic lawmakers can pass the new farm bill next week. Let’s hope he is right. The farm bill needs to be passed sooner than later to give the agriculture industry some certainty during unsettling times in farm country.