National Farmers Union President Rob Larew Outlines NFU Priorities for Producers at Fly-InMon, 19 Sep 2022 11:42:22 CDT
At the National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-In this past week in Washington, DC, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network intern, Cheyenne Leach, had the chance to visit with NFU President, Rob Larew, to talk about putting American producers first and priorities for the 2023 farm bill.
Larew talked about the Fairness for Farmers campaign, a Farmers Union project aimed to advocate for fair agriculture markets and support specific policy actions regarding the Cattle Price Discover and Transparency Act, the Packers and Stockyards Act and more.
“This is an issue that farmers and ranchers have known about for a long time,” Larew said. “The fact that you have so much consolidation in ag, whether we are talking about cattle markets, or crop inputs, fertilizer, there is so many different places where you have almost a pure monopoly in some cases.”
This extreme consolidation, Larew said, puts huge pressure on farmers and ranchers who are trying to make it on slim margins. Larew said this ultimately impacts the consumer.
“The Fairness for Farmers campaign that NFU has launched is really about educating everyone about the challenges that farmers and ranchers are going through right now in this case,” Larew said. “We have so many other challenges as well, but if we don’t get a handle on getting more competition to make sure that these markets are truly fair and open and transparent, then we are going to be in a lot of trouble.”
In summary, Larew said the Fairness for Farmers campaign is about educating everyone about what needs to be done, the problems that farmers and ranchers are facing, and how we can increase fairness in the market.
Larew also talked about priorities for the 2023 farm bill.
“Each farm bill seems to be written just a little bit differently and there is always some new challenge,” Larew said. “Either there is not enough money typically, or there is a new challenge here. Sometimes another problem that happens with farm bills is when we get close to one, folks start looking at where commodity prices for example might be, and that impacts whether folks get engaged in a farm bill.”
Because farm bills last at least five years, Larew said we need farm bills that are going to be there for whatever conditions arise whether it is the markets, natural disasters, or more.
“We need to make sure that a safety net, whether we are talking about crop insurance or we are talking about making sure that livestock producers out there have the risk management tools that they need, or whether we are talking about that safety net underneath the prices- farmers and ranchers are always going to be facing those challenges,” Larew said. “Farm bills are intended to be there to fill in those gaps and make sure the farmers can stay on the land and continue to produce food.”
As we look at the next farm bill, Larew said what the Farmers Union is pushing for is a farm bill that is written for the needs that we have right now.
“We can’t write a farm bill that just kind of kicks the can down the road because we don’t know what the problem is going to be a few years from now, so let’s make sure that we build a farm bill for all of those possibilities,” Larew said.
Concerning actions NFU is taking to help beginning farmers, Larew said a big concern is the access to land and ensuring beginning farmers have affordable ways to get into the business.
“At least give them a foot in the door so they can begin to build some equity in a business and grow and hopefully raise a family there as well,” Larew said. “Ultimately, that is what we all want. We have a long way to go before we can actually see it happen.”
Larew also talked about what the Farmers Union is hearing from producers concerning the drought and high input prices.
“It seems like anytime that we hit higher prices, we either don’t have a crop to sell or input costs go up so high that any margin we might have had there seems to evaporate,” Larew said. “So, those challenges really are persistent. I go back to fairness for farmers because it’s not the only cause, but the fact that we have so few players in this marketplace really impacts our ability to have other choices and to know what an open market could truly look like.”
While many people want to have a free and fair marketplace with limited government involvement, Larew said the government has its place.
“No doubt- we don’t want government regulations, but the government does have a role in making sure that antitrust laws in the fertilizer industry, in the input industry, in beef packers- that the rules and laws that we have in place right now are truly enforced, and it is not going to be all the solution for challenges folks are facing right now, but it is a big part of it.”
Click the LISTEN BAR below to hear Cheyenne’s full conversation with Rob Larew talking more about the food supply, food safety, producer morale, and more.
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