WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Farm Bureau Federation announced their support for Farmers for Free Trade, a sign of the growing momentum behind the bipartisan campaign to rebuild support for trade at the grassroots level. Farmers for Free Trade, led by former Senators Max Baucus and Richard Lugar, is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that informs, mobilizes and amplifies the voice of U.S. farmers and ranchers who depend on worldwide markets. This critical grassroots push comes at a time when trade is under fire, despite the fact that U.S. farmers export half of all major commodities, contributing to a $20 billion agricultural trade surplus this year and supporting millions of rural jobs.
The Farm Bureau announced their support in a press conference call today that included remarks from Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall; Farmers for Free Trade Co-Chairs Baucus and Lugar, Sara Lilygren, President of the Farmers for Free Trade Board; and Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts.
“The American Farm Bureau is proud to join Farmers for Free Trade to help educate Americans about the importance of trade to farmers and farm income,” said President Duvall. “More than 20 percent of farm income comes from agricultural exports. Farmers and the rural communities that benefit from a strong ag economy cannot afford to lose that income.”
“We need to remind rural communities that their livelihoods depend on global supply chains,” said Senator Baucus. “And not just farmers and ranchers, also the secondary jobs: the grain elevator operator, the railroad worker, the truck driver, and port operators. We aim to educate and mobilize so the voices of these Americans who depend on trade are heard. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. When it comes to ag trade we aim to squeak very loudly.”
“From my own experience managing my family’s 604-acre farm in Indiana, it is clear that farm incomes have been declining,” said Senator Lugar. “Trade with other nations is critical to help alleviate this decline and stabilize the economies of farming communities across the country. Farmers at the grassroots level know, for example, that 1 out of 10 planted acres in the U.S. is sold to Mexico or Canada. I am proud to join in this effort to help farmers’ voices be heard.”
“Our mission at Farmers for Free Trade is to make sure that the same folks who put food on the table – are at the table – as we set trade policy for this country,” said Sara Lilygren, President of the Farmers for Free Trade Board. “With the support of agricultural powerhouses like the Farm Bureau we are growing and gaining momentum each day to further that mission.”
“Trade is just as important to the farm economy as the farm bill,” said Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts. “Our export markets are vital to the farmers and ranchers in Kansas.”