WASHINGTON, D.C. — With reforms in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act phasing out support mechanisms for farmers and ranchers, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Bob Smith (R-OR), Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich (R-GA), Ranking Committee Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), and others at a news conference today announced bipartisan plans to ensure the future of American agriculture through various trade initiatives vital to the U.S. economy.
Smith called today's news conference to announce a four-point plan which will be the cornerstone of the Committee's agenda for the remainder of the 105th Congress. The plan discussed today includes the exemption of agricultural exports from international sanctions, work towards a bipartisan solution to funding the International Monetary Fund, approval of Fast Track, and approval of normal trade status for China.
"U.S. farmers and ranchers, since the passage of the Freedom to Farm Act, look to the marketplace to sell their product. It is our responsibility, as part of the government, to make sure there are no artificial impediments in the way of agriculture sales. This means that our government must work to open markets around the world and keep them open," Smith said.
"It is absolutely vital that this Congress continues to lead on the issues that matter to American farmers and ranchers. They must have the confidence that they will be able to sell their products on the world market without restriction in the years ahead," said Gingrich.
"We can help U.S. farmers and ranchers by providing the authority for fast track, by funding the International Monetary Fund, by providing normal trading status for China, and by excluding agriculture from sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan. U.S. farmers and ranchers will be the beneficiaries," Smith said.
"By acting on these critical issues, we will build on the historic success of the 1996 Farm Bill, which is giving farmers and ranchers the freedom to farm and the tools to compete effectively and meet the challenges that lie ahead," Gingrich said.
"It is no secret that we have severe problems in farm country. We must all stand shoulder to shoulder to guarantee that U.S. agriculture secures a strong place in the world market place. These four points will go a long way toward meeting the promises we made to producers regarding trade when we passed the Freedom to Farm Act. We must still continue to search for creative ways to provide our producers with the risk management and marketing tools they need to compete in the marketplace," Stenholm said.
Other members in attendance at the news conference included Agriculture Subcommittee Chairmen Larry Combest (R-TX) and Tom Ewing (R-IL), Committee Members Cal Dooley (D-CA), Marion Berry (D-AR), and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), and Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner (R-OH).
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.