COLUMBUS – Ohio’s “only farm organization dedicated exclusively to family farms” is warning about dangers ahead for Ohio agriculture from Washington, D.C.
“Recent events have given farmers reason to be alarmed about several of Ohio’s most important farm products, especially pork and soybeans– as they ready for spring planting,” stated OFU President Joe Logan in a press release.
“Family farmers continue to operate in an environment of depressed commodity prices and we cannot afford an all-out trade war or backsliding on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Logan said.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last week decrying EPA’s granting of waivers to the volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
”More of these so-called ‘hardship waivers’ are allowing huge, profitable oil and gas corporations to blend less biofuels into their products at refineries,” according to the OFU.
“The RFS was passed by Congress to spur growth in the American-grown biofuels industry, and, to date, it has reaped significant economic and environmental benefits for rural America,” said Johnson. “EPA’s recent trend of undermining this law on behalf of the oil industry is disturbing, and it flies in the face of the Administration’s numerous promises to farmers and rural communities to support the RFS. They must stop these actions and instead work towards expanded use of biofuels in our transportation fuel sector as intended by the RFS law.”
NFU’s criticism stems from recent reports that the EPA, which sets RFS volume obligations and ensures compliance with the law, “has allowed major oil refiners to skirt the law. Reuters reported that EPA granted 25 exemptions to oil refineries in 2017, roughly three to four times the amount that previous administrations granted on a yearly basis.
Logan is also concerned about administration trade policy as it’s playing out with a major agricultural trade partner, China.
For the past several weeks, U.S. tariff talk and actions have led to China announcing planned tariffs on pork and soybeans, major Ohio exports. While U.S. and Chinese tariffs are only press releases for the time being and potentially just rhetorical salvos in a broader negotiation, Logan said that if push comes to shove in the next few months, “these tariffs could become reality and further devastate our already depressed markets.”
“Tariffs are the most offensive and least effective tools available to bring trade into balance. We favor more strategic and targeted tools such as the Market Access Charge (MAC) and Sales Factor Apportionment (SFA) to restore trade balance and avoid trade wars,” Logan said.
“The Farmers Union has been consistently critical of U.S. free trade policies that have led to an enormous and consistent trade deficit over several decades. That doesn’t mean that when we have a president who is willing to work the problem that we support burning the village to save it,” Logan said.
“The Farmers Union is increasingly concerned that the Trump administration, despite its good intentions, lacks a well-thought-out ‘end game’ that can bring trade into balance while protecting all segments of the American economy,” Logan said.
“What farmers want is a coherent trade strategy that restores trade balance across all economic sectors, without throwing farmers under the bus.”