Sorghum Spokesman Tim Lust Makes no Bones about It- Times are Tough, Time to Seal Some DealsMon, 13 May 2019 15:43:11 CDT
As rhetoric, frustrations and tensions rise between Republicans and Democrats, the US, China and other international trading partners - the profit margins of the ag economy are going the other way. It is a scenario that has touched almost everyone involved in the ag industry and has been a constant cause for worry among US commodity stakeholders, including sorghum producers. Tim Lust, CEO of National Sorghum Producers (NSP), addressed those fears and the hope that the new Farm Bill has fostered for the future during an interview with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays in Washington, DC Monday at Washington Watch, an event hosted by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
“A year ago this week we got out from under a 178 percent tariff and an anti-dumping and countervailing duty case and I was naïve enough to think it was going to slow down,” Lust remarked on the current state of the ag economy. “Certainly, it’s been an interesting year and continues to be in light of the challenges in the farm economy and how poor prices are and how input costs have gone up. Obviously, there’s trade issues with a number of different countries… It’s a very challenging time.”
While some progress seems as though it is being made with China and other nations, nothing tangible has been accomplished, Lust says. Again, the Administration is beginning to talk about more Market Facilitation Payments (MFP) to help offset the burden that has been cast on farmers bearing the brunt of the ongoing trade war. Lust agrees that those payments are welcomed relief for farmers and might help them survive the next few months but says the only real answer is to seek a long-term solution to this problem - that of course being a quick resolution to finalizing trade deals.
Lust says the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) should be the easiest to ratify, yet little movement has been seen on that front. Negotiations with China, too, seem to be getting close to striking an accord. Lust insists there is still demand for US sorghum there, if a trade deal could just be reached.
As those discussions continue on though, Lust says NSP is closely monitoring the progress being made by the US Department of Agriculture in its efforts to implement the 2018 Farm Bill. Lust says NSP was pleased with the legal language of the bill that came out of Congress. However, he contends when it comes to the practical aspects of implementing the bill - it often times does not transfer from paper to practice as seamlessly as one would hope. Knowing that, Lust says NSP has been actively engaged with USDA, offering its suggestions on how to make the bill’s implementation as farmer friendly as possible.
Given the economic challenges in the ag industry today, Lust insists that both issues - trade and policy - are paramount to the future success of the sorghum industry and its short-term viability.
“It’s a challenging time. We’re realists… we know what real farm prices are in all commodities,” he said. “It’s something we know we’re going to have to walk hand and hand in watch very closely to see where everything is because no doubt - times are extremely challenging - and margins are just really ugly on many farms right now.”
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