Facing challenges is nothing new to America’s farmers. However, most of 2018 and 2019 to date has tested our mental and physical fortitude.
Many of the national headlines regarding weather variability and trade challenges seem like old news to many of us. This is not our first rodeo with Mother Nature.
I remember the challenges of 1974, 1988, 1993, 2012 and many others in between. Farming is not for the faint of heart.
Farming will always be challenged by market variability, weather, global market competition, government regulations, decreasing market share and continued profit-taking.
And there are the issues where some of you have lost land to urban sprawl, land ownership changes, relied on an off-the-farm job to maintain ownership and continued to work 16- to 20-hour days to plant and harvest the crop.
Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. population is not directly involved in farming. At Illinois Farm Bureau, we are working 24/7 to keep the business of farming at the top of mind of the external audiences we work with — congressional offices, state and federal agencies, local, state and national media.
In this very moment all hands are on deck to get the U.S. Congress to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. U.S. farmers need a win.
USMCA preserves zero tariffs. It also resolves longstanding irritants to trade that span across other products.
We need to resolve further disruption of our markets. One of the understated values of Farm Bureau is that of building relationships and our ability to connect firsthand with our peers who are affected by immigration and trade.
To do that, we recently connected with Texas Farm Bureau leaders. During the last week of July, the Illinois Farm Bureau Board of Directors traveled to south Texas to see immigration and trade issues firsthand.
Here are a few takeaways:
- The number of illegal immigrants coming to the border in Pharr has spiked in 2019. It is at a similar level to 2014. Farmers, state police and border officials indicate the area is safe. They feel the situation has been overblown by national media.
- The difference today versus the past is the number of immigrants coming from Central America. They are promised work and a better life in America. Unfortunately, they are often misled and taken advantage of for profit by the traffickers.
- Modern surveillance technology is extensively used to secure the border. The wall is already in place in some areas. It is effective in slowing down attempts to enter illegally. However, locals point out the Rio Grande has many bends and curves and there is a large amount of border to cover.
- We visited the Ag Inspection Service in Pharr, the busiest port of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border. An average of 2,100 trucks cross daily.
- There is a growing labor shortage in south Texas agriculture. Many workers who traditionally crossed the border are now opting to stay in Mexico and work in manufacturing in cities along the border. Even Mexican farmers and ag businesses are experiencing a labor shortage.
- South Texas agriculture is very diverse, with citrus, vegetables, sorghum, milo, cotton, sugar and corn. Fields are irrigated from the Rio Grande River. We saw corn being harvested during our trip.
- USMCA is a major priority of the Texas Farm Bureau. About one-third of the overall U.S. trade with Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement involves Texas products.
- In 2018, prior to the tariffs, the Port of Corpus Christi exported 16 shiploads of grain. For the remainder of the year, after the tariffs were imposed, only two shiploads went out of the port and one of the two grain facilities has since closed.
USMCA will benefit our Illinois farmers — but more importantly our American farmers, and that is why it is important we work alongside each other to make sure the U.S. Congress passes USMCA.
If you haven’t joined in on the action request, text RATIFY USMCA to 52886 by Aug. 31. As always, Farm Bureau is at the table making farmers’ voices heard across the nation.