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Chairmen Thompson & Smith Op-Ed: Washington must not let politics stand in the way of American agriculture

Since our nation’s founding, American agriculture has been the primary driver of the United States' rural economy. The hard work and determination of our producers have made us the top food exporter in the world. But after more than 50 years of leading the world in agriculture exports, American farmers are now facing trade barriers and higher costs that are making it harder to market and sell their goods overseas.  

Policymakers in Congress must ensure we are doing everything in our power to support American farmers and ranchers, and be willing to go to bat for them globally. The 2024 Farm Bill, appropriately named the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024, does just that, by taking steps to open new markets to American grown and raised products. 

In 2023, the agricultural trade deficit reached an unprecedented $21 billion that is projected to grow to $30.5 billion this year, a fact that is especially alarming when compared to the Trump administration, which had an average agriculture trade surplus of over $5.2 billion. The current trade deficit is the result of not only poor economic conditions and rising prices for American farmers and ranchers, but also trade barriers across the world that create an uneven playing field in foreign markets for U.S.-produced goods. 

The 2024 Farm Bill meets the needs of our farmers and will help them compete abroad. By expanding the reach and impact of our trade promotion programs, the bill will facilitate vital access to new markets for American products. Funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program would double under the Republican proposal, helping American producers not only access new markets but counteract the Biden administration’s ineffective trade agenda.  

As the world’s breadbasket, America is the foremost nation with the agricultural capability to feed the globe. The Ways and Means Committee has been working in parallel to the House Agriculture Committee to use the trade tools at our disposal to expand market access for U.S. agriculture and protect the interests of America’s farmers and ranchers. Last month, the Ways and Means Committee used a reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences program to add, for the first time, new requirements that participating countries treat U.S. agriculture exports fairly in order to be eligible for the program. This means dropping both tariff and non-tariff barriers to goods produced by America’s farmers. 

In addition to promoting new market access for American-grown products, the Farm Bill addresses a serious national security concern that has arisen in recent decades: our agriculture supply chain.  

For years, China has quietly amassed hundreds of thousands of acres of American farmland. Americans cannot afford China’s malign influence in our food supply. The Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 takes an overdue step to shed light on how much farmland in the United States is owned or controlled by foreign entities. The provision mirrors Ways and Means-passed legislation, the Build It in America Act, which would prevent “Countries of Concern,” including China, Russia and Iran, from buying up American farmland. China has been eating our lunch under the current administration — we cannot allow them to control how it is grown too. 

The United States can no longer stand idly by while foreign countries deny American products access to foreign markets. And we cannot allow our adversaries to meddle in our domestic food supply chain. The House Republicans’ proposed Farm Bill puts forward commonsense solutions to protect our food security, our economic security and our national security. Allowing these programs to lapse without these vital reforms would be reckless, given the complex challenges we face as a nation.