By RICHARD GUEBERT JR.
For Rantoul Press
To say we’re between a rock and hard place this year is an understatement.
While it’s certainly true that trade issues with China need to be addressed, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) needs to be updated, it leaves most farmers, myself included, feeling helpless as we watch carefully curated and growing global markets shrivel in the face of trade disagreements and tit-for-tat tariffs.
As an organization, we’ve done our best to impress upon our congressional delegation and high-level administration officials the important role trade plays for farmers here in Illinois and across the country.
We’ve attended meetings, visited capitol hill, written public statements and letters, and taken to the airwaves, calling on the president to go back to the negotiating table and follow a rules-based system of trade agreements that would allow for fair trade deals that are beneficial to everyone.
The drumbeat has been steady, and I was able to continue beating that drum Thursday, July 19, when I spoke with Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event for Congressman Mike Bost.
I told him how these tariffs and trade tensions have impacted Illinois agriculture. I told him how important it is that we get to the bottom of this and get it resolved sooner, rather than later. I told him we need to get to the negotiating table, because we’re already in the fifth straight year of decreasing farm income and there are some tough times ahead for farmers, especially our young farmers who may not have enough capital to weather the storm.
I told him about members I’ve spoken with across the state – members who will have a tough time getting financing next year if prices don’t improve. I reminded him that combines are just a couple of months away from rolling into the fields to gather this year’s harvest — a harvest that looks to be a bin buster yet again — and that a plentiful crop will have a negative impact on already bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
Finally, I reiterated that the tariffs that have already been implemented, and the tariffs that are set to go into effect later this summer have already affected not only the price of corn, soybeans and wheat, but also cattle and hogs. I impressed upon him the need for trade deals with Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union so that farmers can get back to doing what we do best: providing food for the world.
And do you know what he said? "Rich, I got it. I’ll share it with the president when I get back to D.C. this evening."
I couldn’t have asked for more while representing Illinois farmers to one of the administration’s highest-ranking officials. It was comforting to know the vice president understands how dire things could become here in farm country, and I certainly hope he keeps his word and carries that message back to President Trump.
From there, we can only hope our message will have an impact.
Richard Guebert Jr. is the 15th president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and serves as full-time executive officer. He also is president of COUNTRY Financial, Illinois Agricultural Service Company, the IAA Foundation, and serves on the coordinating committee for GROWMARK, Inc. Guebert and his wife, Nancy, and son, Kyle, grow corn, soybeans and wheat in Ellis Grove.