Farmers floundering as Fischer spins wheels

The understandable despair in Nebraska’s ag sector is happening on Sen. Deb. Fischer’s watch.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the specter of a trade war with China will harm Nebraska’s depressed farm economy, which is in the fourth year of a slump —  American farmers’ profits will fall this year to their lowest since 2006.

“Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers have been on the ropes for four years and need help, but Deb Fischer continues to be ineffective in making any progress in urging President Trump to change his stance on leaving the TPP in order to protect Nebraska’s Ag producers,” said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb.

Fischer’s inaction on keeping the U.S. in the Trans-Pacific Partnership means that Nebraska lost out on reducing Japan’s tariff on U.S. beef to 9 percent over the next 16 years. Beef from TPP members will enter Japan with a 9-percent tariff, while U.S. beef faces a 38-percent tariff.

“Nebraska is the No. 1 state for beef exports, No. 3 for corn exports and No. 5 for soybean and pork exports,” Kleeb said. “Now, the U.S. — and more critically Nebraska families — are losing out.”

Non-TPP member nations like the United States will be faced with high tariffs when shipping to the Asia-Pacific region.

After the U.S. raised tariffs on Chinese goods, China has signaled that it will levy 25 percent tariffs on soybeans, corn, and pork – which will devastate Nebraska’s already suffering agricultural sector.

Nebraska exported more than half of the U.S. beef sent to China last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Nebraska’s beef exports to China totaled $8.7 million. But now Nebraska’ beef producers are at risk of losing ground in China’s booming beef market

Australia, the biggest competitor to U.S. beef exports, has made a lucrative deal to expand chilled meat market access to China, negotiating a lower import duty than the U.S.

And Japan — Nebraska’s largest export market for beef —  has vowed to continue striking trade deals with other countries rather than seek new trade agreement with United States. After the U.S. pulled out of TPP re-negotiations, Japan raised the tariff on American beef, which has a serious economic impact on Nebraska’s beef industry.

Fischer said that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue assured her that the administration “was going to take care of farmers and ranchers.”

That is not happening.

“So the question begs – yet again: Just WHAT is Deb Fischer doing in Washington other than voting lock step with Pres. Trump?” Chair Kleeb said.

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