Protecting Hoosier Farmers
Just weeks after President Trump announced steep tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports, China is striking back. It announced in a statement on Sunday (April 1, 2018) the institution of retaliatory duties on 128 American goods “in order to safeguard China’s interests and balance the losses caused by the United States additional tariffs.” This will hit us hard in Indiana’s 6th District.
China is increasing already existing tariffs on U.S. pork and scrap aluminum to 25 percent, and adding a 15 percent duty on many more products including cherries, pistachios, and wine. Luckily, the approximately $3 billion in tariffs announced on Sunday were seen as fairly modest, and soybeans, an important Hoosier export to the country, were not included on the list. For now.
President Trump has created an unnecessary atmosphere of heightened mistrust between our two countries that will likely lead to unnecessary economic pain on both sides. Nobody wins in a trade war. Farm income in America has already dropped 50 percent in the last four years, farm prices are staying consistently low, production costs remain high, and the services and infrastructure underpinning our rural communities are deteriorating.
Agriculture is a vital component of Indiana’s economic health. Almost 83 percent of Indiana’s land is devoted to farms and forests and Indiana exported over $4.7 billion in agricultural products in 2012. China imported $1.1 billion of American pork last year and Hoosiers rank fifth in the nation for pork production. Over a quarter of Hoosier pork is exported out of the United States. Exports create jobs in Indiana and these trade decisions are putting them at jeopardy.
“Exports add significantly to the bottom line of each U.S. pork producer,” notes the National Pork Producers Council.
“U.S. exports of pork and pork products totaled 2.2 million metric tons in 2014, representing more than 26 percent of U.S. production, and those exports add more than $62 to the value of each hog marketed. Exports also supported about 110,000 jobs in the U.S. pork and allied industries.”
Hoosier family farmers and ranchers help secure our nation’s food supply, energy independence, and the wellbeing of rural communities here in the 6th District. So when times get tough, family farmers expect their federal representatives to find workable solutions to federal level problems. Congress has dropped the ball on the trade issue and must stand up to protect this vital industry.
We also need a strong farm safety net to provide meaningful support through severe economic downturns like the one we’re in. This includes improving farm programs, protecting crop insurance, and increasing access to credit and agriculture mediation programs. I support a Farm Bill that addresses the needs of family farmers & ranchers without budget cuts.
I also support bipartisan legislation that increases access to affordable, quality healthcare for family farmers. The health insurance marketplace continues to be unstable leading to significant increases in premium costs that leaves many farming and rural communities with little choice on health insurers. This forces rural hospital closures stranding farmers and rural residents without care. While I believe that Medicare for all is a long term solution for this problem and will be a benefit to small family farms; we need to take immediate short terms steps now.
Finally, I support a renewable energy future for America that will eliminate barriers to higher-blended ethanol and advanced biofuels. Family farmers will see expanded markets for their crops and biobased products and biofuels development will bring capital investment, new tax base, and new, well-paying jobs to struggling rural communities here in the 6th District.
Lane A. Siekman
Lane Siekman is an attorney and economic developer in Rising Sun, Indiana and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Representative in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District.