ANDERSON — Indiana’s two U.S. senators voted with the majority on Thursday to pass the 2018 Farm Bill, legislation that Sen. Joe Donnelly hopes will expand foreign markets for farm products.
The Farm Bill now goes to a conference committee made up of senators and members of the U.S. House to finalize the legislation before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
“It’s important we protect Indiana’s robust and active farming community and the priorities of Hoosier farmers," said Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. "In times of declining profitability, timely passage of a farm bill will provide much-needed certainty to our farmers and rural communities.”
Donnelly, D-Ind., a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee, introduced several proposals that were adopted by the bipartisan committee, including full planting flexibility and expanded funding for promotion programs.
“I’m proud to have brought the wisdom from Hoosier farmers to this bipartisan bill," Donnelly said. "Indiana’s farmers are having to navigate significant challenges, from depressed commodity prices to chaotic trade markets and uncertain federal policies. It’s a step toward providing some much need stability for our farmers.”
During a Wednesday conference call with reporters from Indiana, Donnelly addressed the growing crisis of a trade war with China.
“We have rushed additional funding for export programs,” he said. “With the recent developments, tariffs have always been on our minds as we debated the farm bill.”
Donnelly said Indiana farmers are genuinely concerned, particularly with the drop in the price of soybeans to $8.68 a bushel, a decline of $2 per bushel in recent weeks.
“That may be below the cost of production,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure our farmers are protected, and we’re hoping the administration will listen.”
Donnelly said he's always supported protective tariffs for the steel industry because China was bringing low-cost steel into the country.
“I support tariffs in a niche way,” he said. “This is an issue that has to be solved. We don’t want a tariff battle. I’m hopeful cooler heads will prevail.”
When asked about a proposal to have Congress vote on the implementation of tariffs in the future, Donnelly said that language is being considered.
“Something has to be done,” he said.
Donnelly said Chinese tariffs on agricultural products, particularly soybeans and pork, impacts the entire agricultural community.