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"One of the challenges we in agriculture face, as people understand less and less about what we do, is maintaining our freedom to operate, and being able to operate as advancing science suggests is the most productive and efficient," says John Anderson, deputy senior economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “All this is bound up in the idea of social license: Do people understand what we do? And do they trust us enough to let us do it?"
TERRY BEASLEY, from left, Amory, Miss.; Tommy Moody, Belmont, Miss.; Don Thompson, Golden, Miss.; and Danny Dilworth, Rienzi, Miss., were among those attending the annual Mississippi State University Producer Advisory Council meeting for north Mississippi.
A more diverse renewable fuels portfolio
“Rather, I think the approach we’re going to see is more an additive approach — a more diverse portfolio of products for renewable fuels generation that complements the use of food crops.
“I think that’s where the focus will be, in terms of dollars,” Anderson says. “In the future, there’ll be more emphasis on producing these fuels from products such as wood waste, grasses, other biomass, methane capture, etc. In other words, let’s don’t destroy what has already been built, but let’s try and add some different things to the mix.”
Immigration reform: “Within agriculture, this is a very big issue because of its implications for farm labor, particularly California and other areas where this labor is critical. It’s a concern for some ag enterprises in Mississippi, and the national ag community is really watching this issue carefully.
“But in this year of mid-term elections, I’m not optimistic anything substantive is going to happen on it. I don’t think there is going to be anyone on either side of the issue with any stomach for doing much on immigration reform. There’ll be a lot of talk about it, but I doubt much will happen.”
Health Care: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, “is going to be an ongoing issue. It seems we lurch from one crisis to another on implementation of this legislation, and in this election year it’s going to remain a topic of much controversy.”
Trade Promotion Authority and ongoing free trade area negotiations are topics “we’ll hear a lot about this year,” Anderson says.
The U.S. is negotiating free trade areas within the TransPacific Partnership, which would include Japan. “There’s a lot of interest in the livestock sector in getting this agreement done. For beef and pork interests to have improved access to the Japanese market would be pretty big deal.”
But, Anderson says, “There will be a lot of sticking points on the U.S. side. American sugar interests are very concerned about any deal that would allow more Australian sugar into the U.S., and Japan is very concerned about their rice industry.
“When the various parties started talking up this TransPacific Partnership, everyone said ‘no special deals – everything’s on the table.’ Then as soon as everyone sat down at the table, they started making exceptions. But there is at least some progress being made.”
The other major trade negotiation, Anderson says, is the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a free trade area that “would involve all of Europe and the U.S., the two biggest consumer-spending markets in the world.
“This one,” I think, “is a bit more pie-in-the-sky. There are a lot of major philosophical differences with the Europeans about key issues, such as GMOs, and I think this one will be harder to get done. Nevertheless, we’ll be hearing a lot of about it.”