Michelle Kitchens 2017-08-19 00:34:34
Focus on Fed Legislation The 115th Congress and President Donald Trump are working on several issues that will impact agriculture significantly. While health care and tax reform consume most of the national headlines, several bills and executive orders related to agriculture are moving forward. Cuba In June, President Trump rescinded the executive orders of former President Barak Obama, reverting U.S. policy back to the long-held embargo with Cuba. This disappoints many Arkansas farmers and agriculture businesses who have advocated for decades to open trade. Cuban President Raul Castro has announced he will step down later this year, and a new president will be elected in October. Losing ground in the decades-long battle to open trade is a setback, but the U.S. will keep its embassy and diplomatic channels open. Rep. Rick Crawford has a bill (H.R. 525) to allow credit purchases for agriculture exports to Cuba. Rep. Crawford and Sen. John Boozman believe there’s an opportunity to pass that legislation and continue progress with Cuba. North American Free Trade Agreement Certain U.S. House and Senate members are signing onto a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to prioritize the interests of American agriculture during the NAFTA renegotiation process. NAFTA is the most important U.S. trade agreement, solidifying access to two top markets for American goods. Since 1993, Canada and Mexico have been two of the top five destinations for U.S. agriculture products. Last year, the two countries accounted for 28 percent of the total value of agriculture exports from the U.S. As the U.S. begins negotiations to update NAFTA, market access must remain open because of economic importance of agricultural trade with our neighbors to the north and south. Forest Management Rep. Bruce Westerman has reintroduced H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. The bill has bipartisan support, and there’s a Senate companion bill. H.R. 2936 is designed to implement more proactive forest management practices to lessen wildfire danger and improve forest health. The bill has advanced from the House Natural Resources Committee. The House in the 114th Congress passed a similar bill, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, with bipartisan support, so the outlook for this bill is positive. Drones The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has given a positive recommendation for H.R. 2997, the 21st-Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act. The bill is expected to pass out of committee once the committee addresses all the proposed amendments. This is a six-year reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, which includes the oversight of unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly called drones. The Senate Commerce Committee has considered S. 1405, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017. The Senate bill is only a four-year reauthorization. Both bills offer some possible relief for agricultural use of drones. 2018 Farm Bill Congress is also working on the 2018 farm bill. The first hearings were in February, but the arduous task is only beginning. Farm Bureau set some initial policy priorities for the 2018 farm bill at its national convention in January. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also created a Farm Bill Working Group tasked with developing guidance for our membership on writing the next farm bill. The AFBF Council of Presidents will review its extensive report this summer and provide input on the organization’s direction for the drafting of the 2018 bill. Important legislative and regulatory work looms for Arkansas Farm Bureau and our allies with a new congress and president. It’s critical to establish the best policies on key issues of trade and the farm bill in particular. It will define the agriculture economy for the next generation of farmers.
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