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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) In this opinion piece, Max Baucus, a former senator from Montana and former U.S. ambassador to China, and Richard Lugar, a former senator from Indiana, write that the financial health of American farmers depends on trade. For many American farmers, they add, trade is what is keeping them afloat. But, they say, “American agricultural trade is facing risks not seen in a generation. Public attitudes toward trade agreements have shifted as protectionist sentiment has grown. Threats of tariffs on U.S. trading partners invite the specter of retaliation. Meanwhile, our competitors plot to assume the mantle of global supplier the U.S. has long occupied.” We need, they argue, to rebuild the consensus on agricultural trade that once reigned in Washington. That consensus could be built around four important steps, they write. First, the U.S. needs to get back in the business of negotiating trade agreements. The U.S., note Baucus and Lugar, currently does not have a single ongoing trade negotiation that gives our farmers access to the Asian market, and we are seeing the competitive disadvantage as other countries cut bilateral deals. Second, we must remove the threat of retaliation against U.S. agriculture. Third, modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement should be done in such a way that it does not erode the enormous gains it has delivered for American farmers and ranchers. And, fourth, we need to organize and educate. To support this effort, they say, “we're launching a bipartisan, not-for-profit organization called Farmers for Free Trade, to build a coalition of farmers, mayors and community leaders in congressional districts across the country. This isn't only about the over 1 million U.S. jobs supported by agriculture trade, but also the secondary and tertiary jobs it creates in rural communities: from growers, harvesters, processors, and packagers to grain elevator operators, railroad workers, truck drivers and port operators.Rebuilding consensus on trade begins in the heartland and capitalizes on the great strength of American farmers and ranchers. If we can do that, America wins.”

Posted September 12th, 2017