Lewis: Get markets open and farmers back to work
I grew up in a family business selling tractor engine parts to farmers. Allis Chalmers, Case, IH, Cummins, Hercules, Detroit, Deere, Minneapolis Moline and Waukesha may not mean much to some, but farmers know exactly what I’m talking about.
The 70s and 80s were tough times for agriculture, but I was always amazed by two things: how farmers had to be mechanics, accountants and horticulturists, and how through it all, farmers are never looking for more government, they are looking for markets. That's why I supported the USMCA—which is forecasted to increase our ag exports by about $2 billion and open up higher dairy sales to Canada—all the way back in the 115th Congress. It’s a shame these benefits were delayed several years by Democrats in Congress.
Yet my friends on the farm have also been looking for something else—respect.
How sad that Michael Bloomberg belittled our hardworking Americans when he said, “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer...you dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”
Or that Democrat Governor Tim Walz assured his fellow liberals that they needn’t worry about rural Minnesota because all that’s out there is “rocks and cows.” Even more than Walz’s slight, Minnesota agriculture needs relief from his ruinous lockdowns.
Not long ago at a roundtable in Freeborn County, I got a call from a local hog farmer who had to cancel his participation at the last minute. The reason? He said he had to euthanize over 1,000 hogs. Can you imagine the heartbreak, not to mention the financial loss, from this total collapse of the market due to the lack of urgency in getting these processing plants back online?
That’s why back in April I called for the agricultural provisions in the CARES Act to be invoked so the USDA could expand its assistance to a wider range of producers. And in addition to President Trump’s temporary aid programs through the Commodity Credit Corporation, I called for extending crop insurance to livestock producers as well.
The impacts of the coronavirus lockdown on hog famers rippled across farm country in part because 35-40% of the grain market goes to livestock. Thanks to this President getting tough on China, they are starting to buy more corn as the first round of new trade deals kick in.
Putting America First is also why I voted against so-called sugar program reforms that would have removed protection for our sugar beet farmers and refiners. And it’s also why I voted for the Farm Bill not once, but twice, while serving in the House of Representatives.
Since announcing my candidacy for the Senate, I have traveled in Minnesota farm country, listening to farmers’ challenges and concerns.
Tax reform is a fundamental issue for farmers. In Congress, I was a staunch supporter of the Farm Bureau-endorsed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which included doubling the estate tax exemption.
Health care reform is also of great concern. The Affordable Care Act is pricing too many family farms out of business. I’ll work on real reforms in the Senate instead of impeachment hearings.
Lastly, we must continue to push back on environmental extremism that is encroaching on the ability of our farmers to earn a living. In Congress, I was an original co-sponsor of a bill aimed at repealing the costly WOTUS regulations. I also voted in favor of de-listing grey wolves from the endangered species list. And I was a vocal supporter of ending burdensome EPA reporting requirements that were never intended to impact farms in the first place.
I will continue to put Minnesota agriculture first in the U.S. Senate by pursuing free and fair trade deals, granting equitable tax treatment for family farms, and making significant regulatory reform permanent.
In this present crisis, however, the best thing we can do for agriculture right now is to get markets open and farmers back to work by lifting the lockdowns where we can, and as fast as we can. We can't solve the problems on the farm with a second great depression.
Lewis is the former representative of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District and is the Republican-endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate.