Record crops, low commodity prices and stalled trade negotiations spell troubled times for Kansas farmers and ranchers heading into 2017.
Like many other small businesses, inputs to produce a bumper crop generally entail an abundance of costs as well. Except for lower fuel prices, most agricultural inputs remain high and continue to rise.
Drive through rural Kansas and you’ll see huge piles of red and gold grain lying on the ground. Talk to farmers and ranchers and they’ll tell you their near economic prospects don’t look good.
“Insight” visited with Congressman-elect Roger Marshall at the recent Kansas Farm Bureau convention to ask him what could be done to remedy some of the ailments in farm country.
Marshall campaigned on a platform of bringing Kansas farmers a voice on the House Ag Committee. He labeled himself a “fifth generation farm kid” and said, “I do know what the back side of a tractor feels like and I hauled a lot of hay in my day.”
He’s practiced as an OB-GYN and served as Chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital. Marshall says some of his best knowledge about agriculture was learned while he served as a board member of the Farmer’s Bank and Trust in Great Bend.
“Times are tough in agriculture,” Marshall says. “And there are no simple solutions.”
Beefing up our trade policy would help the Kansas farmer, he says. While he understands president-elect Trump is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its present form. He is committed to free and fair trade and that may leave room to work.
Many farmers, ranchers and other ag leaders realize if this nation engaged in more free trade it would drive up prices.
“If we passed TPP tomorrow, it’d mean $400,000 a day of additional cattle sales to the Pacific-rim countries,” Marshall says.
Positive trade deals could provide Kansas farmers and ranchers with an opportunity to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace. If the United States stays on the sideline, others will continue to sign trade agreements with China, India, Japan and many other developing countries who would welcome Kansas’ high quality feed grains, protein, value-added products and manufactured goods.
Marshall also believes decreasing regulations in agriculture, banking and health care could drive the cost of inputs down.
“The new administration is going to come in and say, ‘halt and desist’ to the Environmental Protection Agency,” the congressman-elect says. “I expect (legislation on) Waters of the United States (WOTUS) to slow down or stop all together.
“When you look at the law that talks about navigable streams, as near as I can tell, water running in a ditch is not navigable where I come from.”
Tax reform is another way to help this country’s economy and that of Kansas farmers and ranchers, Marshall says. He believes a reduction in corporate taxes will spur companies and individuals to invest money and grow businesses.
Rebuilding this nation’s infrastructure could also invigorate this nation’s economy.
“Buckle in because we’re going to start to work on Jan. 4,” Marshall says. “Congress will no longer conduct two and three-day work weeks. Our new president expects us to produce and we expect to operate as a Congress of action. We’re going to turn our economy around.”
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion