Nebraska agriculture has a great story to tell, and I am proud to represent the top-producing ag district in the country. Because of the dedication and efficiency of our producers, our state plays a leading role in feeding the world.
Thank you to every farmer and rancher in Nebraska’s Third District who is up before the sun and outdoors in every type of weather. During National Ag Week, a grateful nation recognizes all you do to produce the food, fuel, feed, and fiber on which we depend.
With more than 96 percent of global consumers living outside our borders, we must make more markets accessible to U.S. ag products.
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement has caused anxiety for producers, but I am optimistic these talks are moving in the right direction. Everyone is staying at the table and working through the details, and I have appreciated the opportunity to bring Nebraska’s voice to the negotiations in both Montreal and Mexico City. Following our conversations with leaders from all three countries, I believe we can strengthen the agreement while sustaining the gains already achieved for ag.
Due to producers’ success, ag is often the first target for retaliatory measures by other countries. I remain very concerned about the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Though I understand President Trump’s desire to put an end to unfair trade practices, the best way to accomplish this goal is through targeted policies rather than blanket tariffs. I will remain steadfast in advocating against actions which could harm the ag economy while also driving up costs for manufacturers.
As we work through these trade issues, it is exciting to see biofuel production increasing global demand for ag commodities. Ethanol plays a significant role in diversifying our energy supply and giving consumers more choices, and Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol producer in the country. I have introduced a bill to build on these advancements by permitting retailers to sell E15 year-round.
Biodiesel also adds value to U.S. agriculture, especially soybeans. Through innovation and technological advancements, the efficiency of biodiesel production has increased from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 2.9 billion gallons today.
The Ways and Means Tax Subcommittee held a hearing on March 14 on expired tax provisions. Cal Meyer from Ag Processing Inc. in Omaha testified before the committee on the importance of the biodiesel tax credit, which has helped grow domestic biodiesel production and consumption. I was pleased to support his testimony and appreciated his willingness to share his expertise.
Producers need certainty to make decisions, and I have cosponsored legislation to renew the biodiesel tax credit and transition it to the producer level.
Also on the topic of certainty, Congress must move forward on the next farm bill. I appreciated the many Nebraskans who attended my farm bill listening sessions last year to discuss what has worked and what needs to be improved. In the midst of low commodity prices and an uncertain trade environment, we should not leave producers guessing about what the next farm bill will look like when we know they need the information to make decisions about their operations.
Farmers and ranchers continue to innovate and work tirelessly to meet global demand. In return, we must do everything we can in Congress to enact sound policies to support their efforts.
To all Nebraska producers, thank you and Happy Ag Week.