In 2002, the seven-year tenure of the 1996 Farm Bill comes to a close. With this conclusion on the horizon, legislators are busy formulating policy for the next farm bill. Policy makers are asking "What worked with the 1996 program?" and "What changes need to be made?"
The Business Plan to Build Demand is a new action plan approved by the Illinois Farm Bureau. The plan outlines some of the necessary steps to communicate the Farm Bureau’s goal of fostering a growing industry that depends less on government payments and more on returns from the marketplace. For agriculture to become more self-sufficient, Congress must implement policies to grow farm markets at home and overseas.
The major initiatives in the Business Plan to Build Demand are energy, market development, trade promotion authority, research, food assistance, conservation and rural development.
- Energy—Renewable fuels is the basis of the energy sector of the plan. Illinois is the nation’s leading ethanol producing state, and the Peoria area is the hub with three processing plants. Cornfields are literally fields of renewable fuel.
- Market development and trade promotion authority—Illinois farmers export 40 percent of their production, accounting for $2.7 billion in 1999. Exports are the lifeblood of American agriculture. Reducing trade barriers and creating new trading partners sets the stage for U.S. agriculture to move forward in a highly competitive marketplace.
Additional growth in purchases of U.S. food and agricultural products is most likely to come from the 96 percent of the world’s population—5.9 billion people—who live outside U.S. borders. If we don’t supply their needs, someone else will. Some of the highest growth in demand for food is occurring in regions with some of the highest trade barriers, such as Asia. To maximize our opportunities to supply those markets, we must get those tariff and non-tariff barriers down.
- Research—Adjusted for inflation, government funding for agricultural and food research has not kept pace with funding for all federal research. Since 1982, the food and agriculture research share of the federal total dropped from 4.2 percent to 2.5 percent. Ag research benefits consumers by improving food safety and nutrition, allowing farmers to capture more value from their commodities and enhancing the environment. The National Coalition for Food and Agriculture said the pay-off of public investments in ag research and education over the past 50 years amounts to $3,400 in annual savings on the food bill of the average U.S. family.
- Food assistance—Many of our largest commercial trading partners are former food aid recipients. The list includes Japan and many of the European countries that received assistance after World War II. The list includes more recent emerging markets such as Mexico, South Korea and Egypt.
More than 800 million people around the world today are chronically undernourished, including more than 180 million children. The United States has the ability to partially alleviate this situation through increased food aid. IBI