President's Column: 2020 has Brought a Bit of Good News for Farm Families, So Far

Posted on Feb 7, 2020

To say it has been an eventful year for agriculture thus far, might be an understatement especially since we are just over a month into it. But farm families, in need of a little good news, have gotten just that since the holidays.

From a trade perspective, this time period has likely been the most productive in the last few years with a signed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that will create so much opportunity for agricultural trade between this country and our biggest export markets.

This agreement updates an antiquated North American Free Trade Agreement and could be worth billions to American farmers.

News of the Phase I Trade Agreement between the U.S. and China is also a huge win for the ag industry, bringing back much of a market American agriculture has missed due to an ongoing trade dispute.

Our advocacy efforts to get adequate broadband service to all rural areas got a boost with word of funding coming to this state for that purpose. Thanks to Hilda Legg and her work as USDA Rural Development state director for Kentucky in helping to move this initiative forward. While there is plenty of work left to do, we are making big strides to further this priority.

The last federal funding bill that was passed in December proved favorable to agriculture. The bill included a provision that retains $1.5 billion in disaster relief; it fully funds the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network; it continues USDA’s rural broadband efforts with $550 million in grant funding for the ReConnect program, which will help expand broadband access to historically underserved communities; and retroactively extends the biodiesel tax credit to apply to 2018 and 2019, extending it through 2022, bringing stability to producers after years of debate in Congress.

We also can expect an upturn in net farm income if USDA estimates hold true and while the bottom line is as thin as it can be, news of nearly $6 billion in farm cash receipts for 2019, demonstrates the strength of Kentucky’s agriculture industry even in the toughest of economic times.

From an organizational perspective, the recent American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention was very successful on many levels. Kentucky brought the largest group of any state including host Texas. Our Young Farmer competitors were extraordinary with a national Excellence in Agriculture winner and a top-ten finish in the Achievement Award competition, and a very strong showing in this year’s Discussion Meet.

I couldn’t be prouder of our Young Farmer program and the young people who always represent KFB so well.

While we love good news, there are still hills to climb. As we continue through this current General Assembly session, we must maintain a high level of advocacy to ensure our voices are heard and the issues we face on the farm reach every legislative member. The upcoming Congressional Tour will allow us to do the same with our federal delegation.

In receiving the Distinguished Service Award at the AFBF convention, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas told the gathering that Farm Bureau is the strongest of advocacy groups in the country. Be assured that KFB will continue to do its part to make sure that never changes.