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Opinion

Guebert: Agreements to regain lost export demand

The month of January brought in a new decade, colder weather and a bright future for some hot topics in agriculture. Significant trade deals — a China Phase 1 agreement and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — have been signed, sealed and delivered.

Our farmers have been cautiously optimistic as these deals took their various steps toward finalization. Who could have guessed both agreements would move forward within 24 hours of each other?

Additionally, the overreaching Waters of the U.S. rule has been repealed and replaced with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. During the weekend beforehand, 6,000 people from 50 states and Puerto Rico gathered in Texas for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 101st annual convention.

Signing the China Phase 1 agreement was an important step in bringing the trade war to an end and rebuilding our relationship with China. Illinois is the No. 1 soybean producer in the nation, which puts our farmers in a great position to help fulfill China’s soybean demand.

We are eager to get back to business and earn our profits from the marketplace. Maintaining and expanding stable relationships with global partners is one of the most surefire ways to bring an opportunity for success.

The Senate passage of the USMCA was a welcome victory for Illinois agriculture. The signed agreement protects valuable trade relationships with our nearest neighbors.

It makes important improvements for Illinois farmers, providing new market access for dairy products and maintaining the zero-tariff platform on all other ag products.

This is a path forward for new and increased opportunities — and America’s next generation of farmers. Canada must still ratify the pact, which is expected to occur in the next few months.

The signing of these agreements aligned with the 85% of surveyed Illinois Farm Bureau members who identified “regaining lost ag export demand” as their top priority for the coming year in the organization’s annual survey in late November 2019.

We applaud President Donald Trump and his administration for successfully renegotiating an improved agreement with Mexico and Canada. We give our thanks to Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, for their ongoing support throughout U.S. Senate negotiations and, ultimately their vote in favor of USMCA.

On Jan. 23, the Trump administration announced their replacement rule following the EPA’s WOTUS repeal. Illinois Farm Bureau members have remained engaged in this issue for years.

Our members, staff and an array of national allies have been successful in efforts to rally for a common-sense rule that protects water quality. We give credit to our committed members across the state for standing up for clean water and clear rules.

AFBF Convention

The AFBF annual convention is a great experience similar to IFB annual meeting in December, but on a much larger scale. We’re traveling, reuniting with familiar faces and bringing forth grassroots policies and policy amendments to be voted upon by 346 farmer and rancher delegates, with 20 from Illinois.

Our Illinois delegates were successful in bringing forth IFB policy submittals.

I’m proud of our Illinois young farmers who shined on the national stage during awards and throughout competitions. Each award celebrates young farmers and ranchers who demonstrate knowledge, achievement and a commitment to promoting agriculture.

Brett and Krista Swanson of Knox County finished fourth in the competition for AFBF’s Excellence in Agriculture Award, Grundy County’s Sara Mitchell advanced to the Sweet 16 in the AFBF national Discussion Meet, and Mason County farmer Scott Garlisch competed as Illinois’ representative for the AFBF Achievement Award.

President Trump returned to the AFBF national event for a third year to address the nation’s farmers. We remain appreciative of the progress his administration’s leadership has made and continues to make on trade and other agricultural priorities.

It was a pleasure to have lunch with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. A discussion was held with the secretary that focused on continuing dialogue with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for continued improvement of crop reporting processes.

The significant headway made on these agricultural priorities in the past week increases hopes that 2020 will begin a stronger decade for Illinois farmers.

Richard Guebert Jr. is the president of Illinois Farm Bureau.

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