China Again Hits Rural America in Retaliation for Trump’s Trade War

Update 2 (July 5, 2018): China says it hopes Trump will rethink his trade war before it kicks off at 12:01 a.m. July 6, but with his $34 billion in tariffs likely to take effect Beijing is ready to strike back dollar-for-dollar.

Rural America will feel nearly the full force of China’s retaliatory action. “Beijing is targeting soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, sorghum, beef, pork, poultry, fish, diary products, nuts and vegetables, and autos in its first round of counter measures,” Bloomberg News reported.

China is signaling it’s preparing to go tit-for-tat with Trump for the long haul. As a result of the trade war, Chinese importers are already buying soy from growers in other countries like Brazil. China is canceling orders for 1.14 million tons of soy produced in the U.S. that had been scheduled to be shipped by the end-August

UPDATE 1 (June 19, 2018): The White House escalated its trade war with China by threatening late Monday to put tariffs on another $200 billion on Chinese goods, deepening concerns from Rural Main Street to Wall Street that Trump’s policy will cripple American businesses. China immediately said it would not cave to “extreme pressure and blackmailing” and would retaliate with equal tariffs on $200 billion in U.S. goods.

China has strategically hit back at Trump by targeting products made in The Heartland, where Trump has his strongest base of support. farmers, growers and ranchers are among the hardest hit in Trump’s trade war.

There was a quiet sigh of relief Friday in U.S. tech communities on the East and West Coasts when China spared them painful retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on Chinese technology. Instead of a direct eye-for-an-eye poke, Beijing hit back at the latest salvo in the Trump trade war with a body blow to the breadbasket, striking at products primarily harvested and made in the American Heartland.

Welcome to Trump’s trade war – a high stakes economic war game in which China finds the best way to retaliate is by attacking the Rural Economy in the epicenter of Trump Country. Farmers, growers, ranchers, fishermen, coal miners, automakers, and oilfield workers all made China’s latest hit list.

In his latest move, Trump hit Chinese aerospace, automobiles, machinery and robotics industries with tariffs. China is answering with $34 billion in tariffs on U.S. agriculture and aquaculture, including beef, corn, cotton, lobster, orange juice, pork, poultry, and soybeans, along with automobiles and whiskey. Another round of Chinese tariffs on U.S. products will target coal, crude oil, gasoline and medical equipment.

The hit lists from the two respective countries are an escalation of global economic warfare. This latest round of trade shenanigans follows Trump announcing tariffs in April on steel and aluminum. China struck back at that time with tariffs on fruit, nuts, pork, and wine.

Unruly trade agreements have become a problem for U.S. communities and workers, but trade imbalances are really just the result of American companies and consumers getting the most bang for their buck. That’s how the game is played in the marketplace and that’s how it’s taught in the finest American business schools. Perhaps Trump was not in class the day they taught capitalism at Wharton, his famous but embarrassed alma mater?

The hard truth is the Trump administration, Wall Street and most corporate boardrooms have no “Buy American” policies. Alas, the locally grown family farmers movement and labor organizations are pretty much going it alone with the Buy American campaign.

After all the bluster and grandstanding are over, negotiations and deal-making are the only real solutions to fixing lousy trade deals. Trump needs to patch up the holes, not blow up the whole system with a trade war that hurts American consumers, families, and businesses. Unfortunately, scorched earth policy is the Trump model. We know that from experience. Here are three stark examples of the Trump implosion strategy:

Trump is the man without a plan. We can’t lose sight of how it was Trump who picked the fights with China, Europe and Canada, and yet there is no reason to believe he has a plan to protect the Rural Economy from being ravaged in his trade wars. Instead, all he has for us is another slogan: “Trade wars are easy to win.” Well if trade wars are easy to win, as Trump has boasted, then why don’t countries do it all the time? And why are Republicans lining up to tell Trump to back off?

(updated)

Senate Puts Up a ‘Softer’ Farm Bill, But There is Still a Big Fight Ahead

UPDATE 2: The stage is set for showdown between the House and Senate over the direction of the Farm Bill and whether Congress will maintain the longstanding tradition of protecting our Family Farmers, children, seniors, veterans and active duty families that are covered by its American Safety Net.

In an all-too-rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the Senate voted 86 to 11 Thursday night for a bill that encompasses the economic necessities of farmers, the nutritional needs of American families and the conservationist practices that protect our food supply, precious lands and waterways.

The Senate version is far cry from the Machiavellian legislation passed in the House. We should expect a bitter fight between the bipartisan coalition in the Senate and the hard line Republicans in the House, who barely were able to pass their bill on a 213 to 211 vote.

Few changes were made to the original version of the bill hammered out by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking Democrat on the panel, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

UPDATE 1: The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 20-1 in favor of the Farm Bill last week, adding only a few changes to the legislation. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was the lone no vote, arguing the bill includes measures that provide corporate welfare for non-farmers (his measure succeeded in getting added before the final vote). He hopes to get his changes into the bill before the final Senate vote.

The House and Senate remain miles apart on approach, so we expect a bumpy ride when the two chambers ultimately plow through negotiations toward a final Farm Bill they will send to Trump for his signature.

Senators are being praised for their version of the Farm Bill, which protects Family Farmers, nutrition and farm-to-fork programs.

Although “softer” than the mean-spirited House version, congressional insiders still believe that the Senate could produce a flawed piece of legislation when the committee and full Senate finalize the legislation. The Senate Agriculture Committee plans to tinker with its bill starting this week and hopes to have vote by the full Senate before the Fourth of July.

“The Senate’s draft text of the 2018 Farm Bill makes significant improvements over the current version of the House bill,” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we will encourage the Senate to make important improvements to the farm safety net and to programs that enhance long-term sustainability and access to markets for family farmers and ranchers.”

We should also anticipate House hardliners and the White House to keep the pressure on to maintain the forced-work provision when both chambers in Congress negotiate a final bill. Trump has indicated he wants a forced work program in any bill he will sign into law.

The group Farm Futures has created a point-by-point comparison of the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition also looked at the differences in the House and Senate bills.

Meanwhile, after mending an internal party rift that led to the initial defeat of the House bill, a now-united GOP plans to re-vote on its flawed Farm Bill on or around June 22, 2018. Unless pressured to flip their vote, the House will pass that bill.

The House GOP bill is an $867 billion package that sets spending for the next 10 years. Despite rising cost of living, it’s $90 billion less than the enacted 2014 Farm Bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis. More than 10 million Americans over the age of 50 currently get help buying groceries thanks to the Farm Bill, as do 23,000 active duty military households and 1.5 million veterans and their families.

Even before we know the full extent of the harm that would be done by a forced work program, estimates are more than 2 million Americans will have food taken from their tables, and another quarter of a million children will lose their school lunches thanks to the House Farm Bill. About 75% of the Farm Bill funds nutrition and farm-to-fork programs.

(Updated)

Time to Step Up to Protect Children, Family Farmers, Seniors, Veterans, Armed Forces and Farmers Markets from Cruel, Destructive Farm Bill

We’re nearing the homestretch now in the effort to ensure Congress passes a Farm Bill that protects children, Family Farmers, seniors, veterans, and active duty military personnel. Congress must be pressured to preserve shared federal, state and local authority over safe food, land and water resources, as well.

The House GOP bill is an $867 billion package that sets spending for the next 10 years. Despite rising cost of living, it’s $90 billion less than the enacted 2014 Farm Bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis.

Just like the $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily helps corporations and billionaires, the GOP House Farm Bill is a gift to “Big Ag,” favoring industrial farming over Family Farmers and the Locally Grown Movement. The best chance we have for a fair Farm Bill remains in the Senate, where reaching the 60 votes needed for passage won’t allow for the draconian legislation that House Republicans have crafted.

Gutting a System that Ensures Safe, Plentiful Food and Agriculture Resources

House Republicans seem to reject the idea that safe and plentiful food production in the U.S. depends on smart local policies that set global standards. The House GOP bill would reverse the progress we’ve made toward protecting resources needed to ensure prosperous and safe agriculture.

Land, water, and wildlife vital to the Rural Economy all take a hit under the shorted House bill. The House GOP Farm Bill wipes out $150 million mandatory funding for rural development programs, including drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

Local authority over agricultural production and manufacturing standards also are eliminated under the House GOP farm Bill if similar products are produced elsewhere under less stringent standards. One Republican amendment added to the House Farm Bill would eliminate thousands of state and local laws, including food safety and labeling regulations. So much for all the promises of protecting states rights.

Wiping Out Initiatives that Promote Family Farming and the Rural Economy

The House Farm Bill cuts funding for first-time farmers by eliminating the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program by providing no mandatory funding. Many experts in the field consider those programs a gateway for expanding women-run farms and ranches. The House GOP Bill also falls short of protecting and promoting certified organic farming, as well.

In addition, the House Republican legislation all but turns out the lights on the Rural Energy for America program, even as sustainable energy programs are creating jobs and revenue for Rural America.

There is even a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine participation in the Affordable Care Act by offering a grossly underfunded program that would allow the USDA to create healthcare associations. These associations would mostly require insurers to pay for minimal healthcare coverage, forcing farmers and rural families to pay more out of pocket. While we’re left asking the question, “What does the USDA know about health insurance,” the GOP scheme would be taking resources out of the existing healthcare pools. Everybody – Rural, Urban and Suburban Americans – all would end up paying more for healthcare if this program were to run its course.

Taking Food Out of Mouths of Children, Disabled, Seniors, and Veterans; and Forced Work-to-Eat Programs

Millions of Americans will go hungry as a result of the House GOP Farm bill. Even before we consider the GOP’s forced work program included in the House bill, a change in eligibility requirements means more than 2 million Americans will have food taken from their tables, and another quarter of a million children will lose their school lunches. About 75% of the Farm Bill funds nutrition programs.

When we consider the forced work programs in the GOP Farm Bill it’s clear they will cause unnecessary pain for our most valued citizens, including the elderly, veterans and physically challenged Americans. More than 10 million Americans over the age of 50 currently get help buying groceries thanks to the Farm Bill, as do about  23,000 active duty military personnel and 1.5 million veterans and their families. Two-thirds of physically challenged Americans so far are unable to join the workforce. How can they eat under the Republican forced work program?

It’s clear the GOP architects of this scheme are not concerned with solving the problem for the working poor in America. If they were serious about patching the gaping hole in the American Safety Net they would include provisions to raise the minimum wage and invest in childcare, affordable healthcare, and practical skills training. Instead, they offer a cheap way to make headlines aimed at appeasing their followers and a few deep-pocketed oligarchs who hide behind a distorted libertarian facade.

(Updated with active duty statistics)

National Farmers Union on Bayer-Monsanto Merger

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) formally approved German drug and chemical giant Bayer’s $62.5 billion acquisition of Monsanto. The deal, which is the latest in a long string of agribusiness mergers, will consolidate control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market and create the largest seed and crop chemicals company in the world. To obtain approval from the DOJ, the resulting conglomerate agreed to divest a collective $9 billion in assets, all of which will be sold to BASF, the largest global chemical producer.
Corporate consolidation has long been of concern to National Farmers Union. Competition among companies forces those companies to provide better, more innovative products at competitive prices in order to stay in business. In the absence of competition, a company with vast market control – much like the combined Bayer-Monsanto – is able to increase the price farmers pay for inputs, such as seeds, traits, and chemicals. Similarly, such companies have less incentive to innovate through research and development. As a result, farmers and ranchers will likely have fewer and more expensive options when purchasing inputs.
NFU has vocally opposed the possibility of a Bayer-Monsanto unification since the deal was proposed two years ago. Since then, the organization has consistently voiced its objections to the merger, citing its negative consequences for family food producers. When the DOJ announced finalization of the deal, NFU President Roger Johnson reiterated those concerns. “Farmers Union condemns DOJ’s continued rubber-stamping of mergers in the food and agriculture arena,” Johnson said. “We will now focus our efforts on ensuring the promises made by Bayer and Monsanto throughout this approval process are kept. The company must continue to increase the productivity of American family farmers by delivering localized solutions in seed, trait, and crop chemical innovation.”
Reposted with permission from NFU E-News, Issue 374. Published May 31, 2018. Photo Credit: Friends of the Earth

Just in from National Farmers Union

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2018
 House Farm Bill Failure Highlights Need for Significant Improvements
WASHINGTON – The House version of the 2018 Farm Bill failed on the House floor today by a vote of 198 to 213. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the vote:
“The rejection of the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill highlights the host of concerns that family farmers have with this failed legislation. At a time when farmers and ranchers are in significant financial strain due to years of depressed prices, this bill does not make necessary improvements to the farm safety net. It eliminates conservation programs and funding that provide them with the tools they need to be the best possible stewards of our natural resources. It reverses progress toward expanding their access to local, regional, and specialty markets. And it makes unnecessary cuts to programs that feed hungry Americans.
 
“Major changes need to be made to this bill. Farmers Union urges the House to send it back to committee to make significant improvements worthy of the men and woman who feed, fuel and clothe our nation.”
# # #
About NFU
National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice. 
 
Learn more about Farmers Union at NFU.org.

Christian and Charitable Organizations Are Joining Right- and Left-Leaning Partisan Groups in Opposing GOP House Farm Bill

After the $1.5 trillion tax bonanza mostly for corporations and billionaires, many people thought an equally generous Farm Bill would be easy pickings.

Traditionally no major measure is crafted to unite an urban-suburban-rural coalition of supporters like the Farm Bill since it ultimately reaches the dinner of every American. From incentives for the people who grow our food to programs that feed our school children, veterans and the elderly, the Farm Bill is a cornerstone legislative achievement that demonstrates America’s strength and moral leadership.

This year, however, the House GOP has put on the table a politically motivated Farm Bill meant to placate a very small minority of Americans that the extreme wing of the Republican Party hopes will inspire turnout in the November elections. It’s partisan divide-and-conquer politics at its ugliest, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) believe will inspire their base voters.

The House GOP plan, however, has turned out to be a massive miscalculation. Instead of building support for their Farm Bill, Ryan and Conaway have united a coalition of opponents that perhaps anytime but this rancorous era of divisive politics would force the House leadership back to work on a more representative measure.

Political groups on the right, left, center; Christian and non-partisan charitable organizations; farming and rancher associations; social responsibility advocates; and conservationists all have found problems that they say make the House Farm Bill a piece of junk. These groups may not agree on the problems they have with the Farm Bill, but they agree that these problems are in their eyes deal-breakers.

“Providing food for those suffering from hunger is central to our Christian faith. The United Methodist Church understands this call not simply as a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness, and justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.

Citing cronyism, waste, a lack of local decision-making and dependence, a coalition of right wing groups including Heritage Action for America, The Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, said in a letter, “The House Agriculture Committee farm bill, which is expected to be debated on the House floor in May, is unacceptable.”

Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund, stated in The Hill newspaper, “Rather than heed the wishes of the American people, the GOP’s plan—yet again—is to tap into ugly myths about aid programs in order to pit struggling workers against one other. That way, they can hide their continued betrayal of the constituents whose interests they pretend to represent.”

A coalition of mostly local family farm and locally grown movement members, wrote in a letter, “A farm bill that works for everyone includes both farmers and consumers. It includes individuals and families in rural and urban communities that don’t have adequate access to healthy food; young farmers and farmers of color; voices that are typically marginalized or underrepresented in the federal policymaking process; and the millions of individuals and families in every corner of this country for whom hunger and poverty are a daily reality.”

We could add many, many more groups, but you get the point. As we said when we first reviewed the House GOP Farm Bill, the measure belongs in a swill bucket.

There is still a chance that Congress can get this right. The more open-minded Senate could craft its own bipartisan bill in coming days that does what the Farm Bill was intended to do: ensure that the Americans who grow our food can provide a nutritious diet to all Americans.

The idea is to make sure no American goes hungry, not to feed a perverse hunger to cause Americans unnecessary pain.

GOP 2018 Farm Bill Doesn’t Spare Rural Americans Pain and Anguish; Hurts Our Farmers, Ranchers, Veterans, Seniors, Mothers, Retailers

It seems the Republicans just can’t help hurting their base voters. This time it’s the House GOP’s 2018 Farm Bill that is shaping up to be another affront to Rural America.

The Farm Bill shortchanges farmers and ranchers and doesn’t make up for the money and jobs that will be lost to U.S. growers and producers as a result of Trump’s trade war with China. The drastic cuts in this abomination of a bill will also hurt Rural veterans, senior citizens, retailers, and the most vulnerable among us.

Since net farm income has dropped about 50 percent in the last four years, now is the time to protect Rural Americans, and not cause them more pain.

These cuts come even though the Congressional Budget Office, the official referee that scores the impact of legislation, concluded that the Farm Bill adds minimal government spending and would not blow up the federal deficit. We’ll say it again: the biggest debt-creating bill remains the $1.5 trillion tax cut mainly for corporations and billionaires.

The Farm Bill is just the latest secret legislation drafted behind closed doors by the Republicans. That’s always a red flag for Americans. Let’s consider some of the state, local and regional agriculture programs it eliminates or reduces in scope:

  • Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program
  • Value-Added Producer Grants
  • Organic Certification Cost Share Program
  • National School Lunch Program
  • Various pesticide protection and conservation programs

“I’ve always been optimistic about the Farm Bill. I felt very fortunate to work on the last farm bill with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, supporting programs that I believe make a difference. As legislation goes, the Farm Bill has a track record of breaking down party lines and cultivating collaboration,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) wrote for the site Civil Eats.

“But now, the Farm Bill has become the latest partisan battle, following in the steps of healthcare and tax reform. The 641-page Farm Bill draft was written by Republicans behind closed doors, and they’re hoping it passes quickly before anyone even has time to read it. The draft was released last Thursday and will be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee today, less than a week later,” Pingree added.

It’s no surprise the worst cuts will come to the farm-to-fork Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP. The Republicans would rather give billionaires and corporations and their shareholders a $1.5 trillion tax boondoggle than take care of Rural States that depend on SNAP the most.

Although Republicans perpetuate a myth that SNAP mostly serves people they stereotype as urban “welfare queens,” government statistics shows Rural Counties rely on the program more than Americans in cities. Furthermore, “39.8% of SNAP participants are white, 25.5% are African-American, 10.9% are Hispanic, 2.4% are Asian, and 1% are Native American,” the government data demonstrates. “In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 11.9% go to households with disabled persons, and 10% go to households with senior citizens,” the same data indicates. In addition, 1.5 million veterans live in households that get SNAP assistance.

Why would House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) intentionally increase the rate of hunger in America? It’s just cruel and unnecessary. Let’s tell Conaway and Congress to protect Rural America and send this partisan, mean-spirited bill to the swill bucket where it belongs.

Heartless Trump Sacrifices American Farmers in Unnecessary Trade War

A bad idea just doesn’t make for sound public policy; uniformed, chaotic government doesn’t make wise choices; and it is self-destructive for people to allow ignorant and intolerant politicians to lead.

For a moment try to forget about the tawdry sex scandals, suspected election subterfuge and signs of using the presidency of the United States as a money-making enterprise. Think about public policy for a moment. Search there for evidence of a cohesive strategy to keep the country moving forward on a path of meaningful growth and cultural significance.

Nada. Trump doesn’t have a plan. He just Tweets randomly without considering the consequences.

Now we find that Trump is willing to sacrifice Rural America’s Farmers and Ranchers in a poorly thought out trade fight with China. In doing so Trump has shown that there are no limits to how much he doesn’t know about America. Soybeans, pork, wine and corn-made Ethanol are the first casualties of Trump’s trade war with China. Expect there to be more.

Trump has revealed to his increasingly softening base that he doesn’t understand the needs of farmers. There was no secret plan that had farmers preparing for any disruption in the marketplace. It shows total disregard for the many farmers that operate season to season. In other words, Trump is oblivious to the fact that man Family Farmers and Ranchers don’t have years to see whether they make out OK in a trade war with China, the second largest economy on the planet.

Even Republican senators don’t like the risk involved in a trade war without a clear path forward, and a winning end game.

“I don’t know that there’s a real plan or strategy in place that gets the result that they want,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-SD) told The Hill. “It seems to me there needs to be a lot of thought given to unintended consequences,” he added. “My impression is that hasn’t happened.”

Trump’s own words this week to his Cabinet made clear he is relinquishing the needs of Rural Americans, expecting Family Farmers and Ranchers to march blindly as their livelihoods are threatened:

“When we do a deal with China, which, probably, we will.  If we don’t, they’ll have to pay pretty high taxes to do business with our country.  That’s a possibility.  But if we do a deal with China, if during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice.  But I tell you, our farmers are great patriots.  These are great patriots.  They understand that they’re doing this for the country.  And we’ll make it up to them.  And in the end, they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now.

“Don’t forget, farmers have been trending downward over an eight-year period.  Their numbers have trended downward, in some cases significantly.

“So between NAFTA and China and all of the things we’re doing, we’re going to make them much better than they’ve ever been.  But during this period of time — Sonny Perdue is here.  You understand exactly what I’m saying.  There will be a little work to be done.  But the farmers will be better off than they ever were.  We’ll take a little while to get there, but it could be very quick, actually.  But I say, it’s not nice when they hit the farmers specifically because they think that hits me.

“So with that being said, we’re doing very well on trade and trade deals.  I think deals will be made.  I think we’re going to make deals with a lot of countries that have taken advantage of us.  And we will be reporting back to everybody, and we’ll start our Cabinet meeting.”

Joining Trump’s coalition of clueless, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Rural America to to pipe down, claiming Farmers and Ranchers are “screaming and yelling” too much on trade, calling it “hardly a life-threatening activity, ” according to lifelong champion of the U.S. agricultural community, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL).

“Well Mr. Secretary and Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: We are screaming and yelling. Yes, indeed! Because when prices fall below the cost of production, it threatens our jobs, our families and our way of life,” Bustos wrote in the Journal Standard.

Donald Trump is a leader without a vision. Trump has turned the health care system upside down, has been disrespectful of state rule, caused unnecessary problems for legal immigrants, and has unduly undercut essential institutions that protect the rule of law and guides the nation in the role of the world’s moral voice.

Trump has failed to keep a promise of passing a predominantly middle class tax bill, proposed an infrastructure bill that forces states and local to raise taxes and tolls to make up for lost federal dollars, and has gutted the diplomatic ranks at a time when diplomacy is more effective than threats of war. Now he’s ready to add to that list by stabbing our Farmers and Ranchers in the back

Now is the Time To Make the 2018 Farm Bill Better

It’s easy to understand how some of us might have missed National Agriculture Day earlier this week with all the screaming tawdry tabloid headlines out of Washington. Some of us might not even realize that Congress is beginning to shape a new Farm Bill this session.

Well, neither of those points slipped by our family farmers and ranchers or the locally grown movement that we hold close to our hearts. Protecting and bolstering the agricultural community is not only critical to commerce and our local economies; it’s critical to our national security.

“Food security isn’t just about having enough food, it’s about national security. A nation that cannot feed its people is a nation at risk,” explained Debra Kozikowski, founder and chairwoman of our non-profit organization, Rural Votes. “The health of our family farms and ranches is key to the health of our nation and our democracy.”

With the White House girding for an ill-conceived trade war that could be a blow to the breadbasket of our nation, it’s even more critical that we protect the people who grow and raise the food that grace our tables. Anyone who thinks that’s an overstatement should consider this: China’s very first retaliatory threat in response to Trump’s protectionist policies was to target pork, wine and fruit exported from the United States.

Causing undue pain to Rural America is a heck of way for Trump to say thanks to the region he carried in the 2016 election, yet we see it happen repeatedly, from cuts to Rural Healthcare to shortchanging Rural Infrastructure to throwing pocket change at Rural Americans while giving away billions of dollars to corporations and his wealthy fat cat friends in his tax bill. Now Trump and his Republican cronies are taking aim at gutting parts of the 2018 Farm Bill that would hit Rural Americans the hardest.

Stepping up to try to ensure that the well being of our farming and ranching community becomes a national priority is the group, Democrats for a Better Farm Bill. In a groundbreaking issue paper from the organization, former Census Bureau mathematician Doug Hillmer and Nebraska political scientist Jon Oberg urge that we “re-connect with rural America by supporting healthy nutrition, new farmers, and the burgeoning market for local sustainable food.”

Hillmer and Oberg recommend pursuing a six-point plan for the 2018 Farm Bill that (quoting verbatim):

  • Marshals the market power of the Food Revolution for the benefit of rural communities, as newly prescribed by the Fed and USDA. This will assure that sustainable farming methods are scalable so local food producers can meet the growing demands for healthy food.
  • Unleashes the nation’s existing state and local research and extension networks to attack the spreading nutrition debacle.
  • Ensures that young people in rural America can successfully pursue a career in farming and have access to affordable farmland.
  • Replaces the costly and wasteful crop insurance programs with lower-cost and more equitable programs that give much more attention to protecting small farmers – as opposed to agri-business – from the risks of the market.
  • Provides more emphasis on and incentives for SNAP recipients purchasing healthy food. The current rules for the WIC program can serve as a guide.
  • Understands topsoil as infrastructure and protects the nation’s precious and disappearing topsoil and productive capacity through greatly expanded, urgent conservation. Restoring topsoil supports sustainable farming methods, re-charges our depleted aquifers, and protects our physical infrastructure from the ravages of water runoff.

“There is no better way to present a vision for rural America than through the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation touches every American, but is especially important to those in farms and cities all across the heartland,” Hillmer and Oberg wrote in a recent op-ed in The Hill newspaper.

Can We Trust Saccone to Protect Our Social Security and Medicare?

Trust is the cornerstone of the compact voters make with the candidates they support. Voters expect their candidates to keep their word and fight for the issues and programs that they pledge to support.

In the special election for the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania, Republican Rick Saccone claims he won’t cut our Social Security and Medicare, but tell that to the man he wants to work for in Washington, Paul Ryan. The House Speaker has bragged that Social Security, and Medicare are his next big target.

Like so many career politicians, Saccone promises to protect our benefits, but he clearly wants it both ways, admitting in a recent debate when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, “we have to do some reforms.”

“Reforms” is nothing but a loaded word for cuts. One prime example is how $250 billion gets gutted from our Medicare under “reforms” in the current Republican budget. And that’s just for starters. Republicans seem to think they can make up for their $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to mainly corporations and the wealthiest by short-changing us on Social Security and Medicare benefits. Saccone has sent a clear signal that he buys into a scheme to “reform” social security and Medicare.

We need leaders who we can trust to increase our Social Security checks and expand our Medicare coverage, not cause us pain by gutting those programs that we earned during our working years. We can’t trust “reforms” to protect our Social Security and Medicare nor can we trust Republicans who think they can fool us into believing otherwise.