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Dairy Crisis
Current NFU News
NFU Calls Enthusiastic Signup for Dairy Program “Great News,” Underscores Need for Risk Management Tools for Family-Run Dairies PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 12, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 12, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the strong signup for the new Margin Protection Plan (MPP) for dairy was “great news,” and noted the warm reception the new program was receiving from family farmers was clear evidence that they need good risk management tools in hand. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that enrollment in the program – which already exceeds half the nation’s dairy farms – exceeded expectations.

“Family-run dairy farms across the country embraced this program in large numbers, because farmers need risk management tools to handle situations beyond their control,” said Johnson. “I applaud USDA’s aggressive education campaign that demonstrated the value of this tool to producers, ultimately resulting in robust enrollment numbers.”

The Margin Protection Program, created in the 2014 Farm Bill, replaced the Milk Income Loss Contract program and gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best for their operation. NFU successfully obtained a provision during Farm Bill drafting to ensure that family farmers received reduced price premiums for this new product.

“The volatility of dairy prices continues to increase year over year and is having a significant impact on the family farmer,” said Johnson. “We’re very pleased that family-run dairy farms were willing to purchase coverage even after a very profitable year,” said Johnson. “Dairy prices are cyclical and we have learned that good years often give way to bad years. Under this new framework dairy producers can be confident that they have some protection,” he added.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Proudly Joins New Coalition To Promote Normalized Relations With Cuba PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 8, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 8, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) today joined other prominent members of the U.S. food and agriculture community in the launch of the new U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), a group aiming to re-establish normalized trade relations with Cuba.

“NFU is proud to join the efforts of USACC in its support of advanced agricultural trade to Cuba,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The coalition will provide leading U.S. agriculture organizations a collective voice in creation of a sustained and viable market for U.S. agricultural products in Cuba.”

Johnson noted that in his prior role as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, he made eight trade missions to Cuba selling agricultural products such as wheat, dried peas, lentils, garbanzo beans and flour. He also described NFU’s hard work over the past five years to push for normalization of relations with Cuba, sending at least 20 letters to government officials and legislators addressing normalized travel and trade between both nations, and emphasizing that the time has come to end the embargo.

“Normalizing trade between the U.S. and Cuba has been a major push for NFU for many years,” said Johnson. “Lifting the failed trade embargo and easing financial regulations are steps that need to be taken in order to provide new markets for U.S. agriculture products. NFU is excited to be able to work with the USACC and promote normalized U.S.-Cuban relations on behalf of American family farmers.”

Johnson also noted that for far too long, U.S. trade policy has been dominated by those who think trade can be used as a weapon to force other nations into changing their behavior. “It was this mindset that brought us the failed Cuban trade embargo in the first place, something NFU has opposed for years. Thankfully, the Obama administration has taken the first step, and now it is time to fully lift the embargo,” he added.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Guest Opinion: Trading Away Our Future? PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 7, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 7, 2015) – National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson argues in a POLITICO Pro guest column today that all future U.S. trade agreements should be negotiated with the goal of reducing the U.S. trade deficit, while ensuring that our trading partners are keeping up with their end of the agreement and abiding by U.S. standards.

“U.S. trade negotiators have lost sight of getting a fair shake in trade over the years as they have entered into a string of agreements under the assumption that increased trade and the elimination of trade and investment barriers was, in and of itself, a worthy goal,” notes Johnson. “In fact, our nation has been so willing to sacrifice almost anything in its lust for more trade that the concept of fair and equal trade seems to have fallen into an abyss.”

Johnson argues that trade is neither inherently good nor bad; it’s just trade. “And for the U.S., it has become anything but fair,” he says.

Johnson points out that while trade has benefitted U.S. agriculture, which represents about 10 percent of net exports, the good news stops there. “In fact, since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and entering into free trade agreements with 20 different countries, instead of promoting economic growth, the U.S. has seen its trade deficit increase. And as such, it has become a major net drag on our economy,” he says.

The U.S. had a $471.5 billion trade deficit in 2013. In the month of September 2014 alone, the U.S. had a $43 billion trade deficit, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, represented a full three percent drag on the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “In other words, if the trade deficit didn’t exist, our economy would be doing three percent better, generating good jobs for Americans and offering a future for our children,” he says.

Johnson explains that under various trade agreements, many important U.S. laws protecting investors, labor rights, the environment and the U.S. currency have been preempted in favor of —simply— more trade. “The net result is that products are often produced in nations with the lowest standards in these areas, hurting U.S. workers who are competing on uneven turf and pushing the nation deeper into debt,” he says.  

Johnson argues that this nation’s leaders – on both sides of the aisle – seem fully committed to rushing into yet more trade talks. The U.S. is currently negotiating two trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement with the European Union.

Johnson notes that the U.S. needs to take a new approach to trade, which includes three important guidelines:

  1. All future U.S. trade agreements should have the goal of reducing and ultimately eliminating the U.S. trade deficit, not just increasing trade flows.
  2. The U.S. must not enter agreements that will subvert the jurisdiction of our important and hard-fought domestic laws, protecting workers, the environment and our children. 
  3. The U.S. needs to stop thinking of trade as if it were a club by which it can single-handedly browbeat other nations into changing their behavior. “It was this mindset that brought us the failed Cuban trade embargo, something National Farmers Union has opposed for years. Thankfully, the Obama administration has taken the first step. Now it is time for Congress to fully lift the embargo.”

“The time is now to open a new chapter on America’s trade policies. Moving forward, let’s make sure these deals have real, balanced and fair benefits for us, before we put our names on them,” he says.   

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU President Calls 2014 “A Positive and Progressive Year for Family Farming;” Says 2015 Holds Opportunity for Positive Change PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 30, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2014) – The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill and the continued strong bipartisan support for both Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were among the top public policy highlights that mark 2014 as a positive and progressive year for family farming, said Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union (NFU) president. He added that 2015 is already looking like a year with great potential for positive change.

“Passage of the five-year farm bill, which not only included important crop insurance safety net provisions for family farmers and ranchers but also reduced overall farm spending, ensured that when disaster strikes, farmers and ranchers have a back-up plan in hand,” said Johnson. “All while helping to reduce the overall federal deficit,” he said.

COOL, which has been under unremitting attack by multinational meatpackers as well as the nation’s top trade competitors, continues to enjoy widespread support among both livestock producers and the public. A May 2013 poll revealed that more than 90 percent of consumers support the labeling law. “The Obama administration is continuing its efforts to work with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ensure that American consumers know where their food is from,” he said. “COOL is good farm policy and good consumer policy.”

The RFS, which has greatly reduced the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, remains on track, and NFU is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to embrace the targets passed by Congress. “The RFS has breathed new life into rural America; making sure it stays on track is one of NFU’s top priorities,” said Johnson.

This past year also saw a worldwide effort through the United Nations to spotlight the important role of family farming both domestically and internationally. One of the highlights of the yearlong celebration was the passage of a resolution in the U.S. Senate designating 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). NFU led the U.S. Committee for IYFF and played a key role in having the resolution adopted by the Senate. “Recognizing the critical role family farmers play in providing food, fuel, feed and fiber to the global population and alleviating hunger and poverty was important because we need to be developing our future farmers – both in the United States and abroad – right now,” said Johnson.

Looking into 2015, NFU will continue to concentrate its efforts on helping young and beginning farmers and ranchers to develop and acquire leadership and farm management skills. “NFU’s Beginning Farmers Institute has helped participants from across the country acquire the education and management skills they need to succeed in farming,” said Johnson.  

Johnson also noted that 2015 will be a big year for trade – with negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement with the European Union – possibly coming before Congress.   

NFU is also looking forward to a renewed relationship with Cuba, a major policy change that was announced by the administration recently. “Cuba is one of our closest neighbors and a potentially valuable trading partner, and thankfully we can begin to turn the page on the decades-old, failed embargo mentality,” he said.

Johnson said that the U.S. needs to take a new approach to trade, and these new agreements are a good place to start. “The time is now to open a new chapter on America’s trade policies,” he said. “Moving forward, let’s make sure these deals have real, balanced and fair benefits for us, before we put our names on them.”  

“Additionally, we must demand transparency to the process to ensure that these and future agreements are really in our national interest,” he added.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Opposes Importation of Meat from Areas with Foot and Mouth Disease; Says U.S. Must Retain High Standards for Imports PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 29, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Dec. 29, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged the U.S. not to resume importation of meat from Northern Argentina and Uruguay because of ongoing concerns with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious disease that could devastate family farmers and ranchers in the U.S.

“Livestock health is critical to production agriculture and our nation’s ability to provide a safe food supply,” said Johnson in comments submitted today to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “Achieving the necessary means to ensure livestock health is a priority for NFU.”

Johnson noted that NFU supports banning livestock, animal protein products, and meat imports that would jeopardize U.S. efforts to eradicate livestock diseases, including FMD, and that allowing imports of beef from Northern Argentina could potentially conflict with these efforts.

“APHIS acknowledges that Northern Argentina is not considered to be free of FMD,” said Johnson. “In May of 2000, the World Organization for Animal Health designated Argentina as FMD-free without vaccination. Just two months later, FMD outbreaks reappeared, culminating in the epidemic outbreak in 2001. Since then, Argentina has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to eradicate and control FMD, and concealed the outbreaks from the international community for months.”

Johnson pointed out that in addition to health safety risks, serious economic repercussions could result from an outbreak of FMD in the U.S.

“The economic impacts of an FMD outbreak in the U.S. would be tremendous,” noted Johnson. “FMD is highly contagious and has the potential to spread very quickly. Given the rapidity with which FMD spreads, an outbreak would create devastating economic consequences for farmers and ranchers. Recent research has estimated outbreaks in FMD-free countries and zones cause losses of greater than $1.5 billion per year.”

Johnson also noted that in 2001, an outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter or burn of nearly 3 million animals. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy; total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounting to roughly £3.1 billion.

“Prior to the 2001 outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak,” said Johnson. “This particular example demonstrates that no country is immune to the devastating impacts of a FMD outbreak, and the utmost precaution should be taken when evaluating changes in import status from countries with a recent history of FMD.

“U.S. farmers and ranchers are known throughout the world for the high standards to which their livestock herds are raised. Our long-standing disease prevention efforts have thus far been successful.”

Read the comments in their entirety here.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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