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Roberts Presses for White House Action on Farm Trade

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration goal of a strong trade policy must recognize the important role of ag exports in the farm economy, said Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts on Monday.

Exports generate 20¢ of each dollar in farm income. “A strong trade policy isn’t just about selling what our country produces. A strong trade policy also is selling what this country grows,” said Roberts at the Agri-Pulse Farm Bill Summit.

With commodity prices in a slump since 2013, Roberts said trade negotiations offered a route to boost exports and farm receipts. The White House withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and said it would pursue one-on-one negotiations to maximize U.S. leverage. 

“Farmers are waiting for the green light,” Roberts told reporters. “We need to move our products as fast as we can.”

The Kansan indicated opposition to a White House proposal to eliminate the McGovern-Dole food program for schoolchildren in poor countries. He said former Kansas Senator Robert Dole (R) called three times about the fate of the program that bears his name. “I told him not to worry,” said Roberts.

Similarly, Roberts indicated disagreement with talk of ending Food for Peace, the largest U.S. food aid program. Funded at roughly $1.4 billion a year, Food for Peace ships U.S.-grown food to hungry nations. It was inaugurated during the Eisenhower era. Roberts dryly noted that Eisenhower was from Kansas so he has “history” with the program. The U.S. is the world’s largest food aid donor. 

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