Former Senators to Lead New Agricultural Advocacy Group
Amid talk from the White House of renegotiating major trade agreements, a new advocacy group called Farmers for Free Trade will make the case for open agricultural markets across international borders. Two former senators, one from each party, announced the launch this week and will serve as co-chairs.
Agriculture and trade are big topics these days—especially together. With President Donald Trump talking about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, many in the agricultural industry are mobilizing to advocate for maintaining open markets around the world for U.S. farmers and ranchers.
That’s the mission of Farmers for Free Trade, a new 501(c)(4) nonprofit announced this week by two former U.S. senators who will serve as co-chairs: Max Baucus, the former Democratic senator from Montana who recently served as U.S. ambassador to China, and Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Republican former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“This is about U.S. leadership not just across all 50 states but beyond,” Baucus said in comments to Feedstuffs. “The U.S. food and agriculture community recognizes that our farmers and ranchers are supported by, and benefit from, the highly integrated, cross-border supply chains that make up the agriculture and food-processing industries as well as serve customers around the globe.”
On its website, the group emphasizes the sheer scale of agricultural imports and exports and how they could be harmed if trade isn’t protected. Farmers for Free Trade estimates that U.S. agriculture will drive a $20 billion trade surplus in 2017. It also points out that certain common agricultural products, such as coffee and bananas, have no domestically produced equivalent.
Lugar noted that imports and exports support a wide variety of jobs for U.S. workers.
“We’re talking about supporting good American jobs—from growers, harvesters, processors, and packagers to multi-modal transportation providers, including grain elevator operators, railroad workers, truck drivers, and port operators,” he told Feedstuffs. “A strong and healthy agriculture industry has a multiplier effect on the secondary and tertiary jobs it creates in rural communities.”
The group plans to play an active role in the next election, with field organizers placed in key states and congressional districts to draw attention to agricultural issues.