Farming has been a perilous business in recent years due to harsh weather conditions and continuing trade wars with other countries, especially China. U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, told members of the Agriculture Council of Arkansas on Monday (Aug. 19) in Jonesboro that he’s hopeful lawmakers will be able to develop supplemental help for farmers, but he warned them not to count on it.
There was a deal on the table to end the trade war with China that had the support of President Donald Trump, but the Chinese walked away at the last minute, the congressman said. He also added that he’s still not convinced that U.S. rice will be sold in China, even though several key restrictions were removed almost two years ago.
China had been the top importer of U.S. soybeans before the trade war, and Crawford bluntly told the crowd farmers may have to find new markets and continue to diversify the crops that they grow. Economic and political conditions constantly change, and we can’t be dependent on certain markets all of the time, he added.
“We’re dealing with dishonest brokers,” he said.
Multi-lateral trade agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, allow for too many loopholes for other countries, and the U.S. should pursue more bilateral agreements with countries. There are several trade agreements not in place, and one of the main problems is that there are a number of ambassador positions open. The U.S. Senate will not confirm some positions, so Crawford thinks Trump should take the matter into his own hands and make several recess appointments.
“We don’t even have an ambassador to Australia right now,” he said.
The U.S. should be in active talks to establish a trade agreement with Great Britain, Crawford said. It’s slated to leave the European Union by Nov. 1, and it could be chaotic without a preemptive plan.
“We need to get a deal done,” he said.
Crawford did briefly talk about politics and his own desire to be the chairman or ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. There are extreme elements in both parties and Crawford thinks the party that can stay closer to the center has a better chance of winning the House in 2020. Taking extreme positions can be unproductive, he added.
“You are out there drifting by yourself … making laws is really hard,” he said.
Crawford said he travels the world performing the duties of his office and the subject often turns to agriculture, he said. He recently visited Kazakhstan to discuss national security matters. Conversations with lawmakers there quickly turned to agriculture as the Asian giant tries to establish itself as a top agrarian country in that region.
“A country that cannot feed and clothe itself is vulnerable,” Crawford sai