As the summer sun sets on another growing season, cooler weather is beginning to arrive. On Nebraska's farms and ranches, corn and beans are drying, and calves are growing stronger. Like every fall, weather challenges may be just around the corner for our ag producers. These hardworking men and women of Nebraska are the unsung heroes of the American dinner table, and we are always ready for whatever obstacles we face. I keep this in mind as I promote common-sense policies for our nation’s agriculture industry.
Nebraskans know agriculture production serves as the economic engine of our state. The fact that one out of every four jobs is related to production agriculture illustrates the industry’s vast economic finger print. However, as most Nebraskans know, the ag economy is currently in a cyclical downturn, which has farmers and livestock producers facing weak prices and tight margins.
It is imperative for Washington to hear from our ag producers, especially as discussions surrounding the 2018 farm bill begin. There is no better venue to hear from our producers than the Nebraska State Fair, which is why the entire Nebraska congressional delegation came together to hear from ag industry leaders about smart farm policy.
We heard loud and clear that farmers and livestock producers must have an affordable and viable farm safety net. Most importantly, producers depend on a strong crop insurance program to allow them to plan for the future. Without this critical risk protection, ag producers will not have the certainty required to invest in advanced technology that enables them to be the most efficient producers in the world. As the Senate moves toward the farm bill debate, I will continue to staunchly defend and advocate for crop insurance programs.
Good farm policy also depends on smart trade policy. Over 95 percent of the world’s population lives beyond the borders of the United States, and they are hungry for Nebraska’s high-quality ag products.
In early September, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced another opportunity for Nebraska producers to expand their global reach across the Pacific Ocean. Vietnam has agreed to reopen its market and accept imports of dried distillers grains (DDGS), an ethanol byproduct used in animal feed, from the United States. Reopening the third-largest market for DDGS grants Nebraska an excellent opportunity to expand the successful exporting of agricultural products from our state.
While we should look for new countries to export our products, we must also work to maintain the trade agreements we already have in place. That’s why I recently sent a letter to President Trump encouraging him to maintain the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. South Korea is Nebraska's sixth-largest agriculture trade partner and a major market for Nebraska’s pork, corn, ethanol, beef and wheat. South Korea represents a market worth nearly $400 million. Selling them our goods helps Nebraska prosper and should be continued.
Finally, I would like to remind everyone that Sept. 17 through Sept. 23 is National Farm Safety and Health Week. Our farmers and ranchers often face dangers as they work to produce high-quality food. We wish them well as they continue to feed the world.