Supporting, Not Transforming, American Agriculture
The Heritage Foundation’s recent report renews the focus on agricultural policies, the backbone of a great power in an era of returning multipolarity.
“The biggest concern that our farmers and ranchers have is an overbearing government, [and] the Biden administration certainly is a behemoth of one,” Representative Kat Cammack, a Florida Republican, said last week. In light of the encroaching policies of the current administration, the Heritage Foundation’s ninth edition of Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise affirms timeless conservative principles of localism and autonomy. This self-proclaimed “policy bible” spans thirty chapters, addressing issues from veteran’s affairs to communications to trade. The tenth chapter concentrates on agricultural policy, a topic perhaps underrated in discussions but vital to a great power persisting through a multipolar era.
With debates for the 2023 Farm Bill underway, the brief is more than timely. The current Farm Bill, set to expire in September, has regulated trade policy, farm subsidies, crop insurance, food aid, and other conservation and agricultural programs for the last five years. Within that time, President Biden has implemented environmental efforts that have been scorned by Republicans. Congressman James Comer of Kentucky vehemently opposed Biden’s agricultural reformation, arguing the administration's policies “wrap up farmers in bureaucratic red tape.” Concerns remain that Biden’s efforts will obstruct efficient production practices vital to America’s continued supremacy in the agriculture industry.
Written on the USDA’s website is the new goal of the USDA-Biden administration partnership: “transforming the food system … at every stage along the supply chain.” Unsurprisingly, the image above their touted new agenda pays no homage to farmers or ranchers. Heritage, in strong opposition, states that the USDA is but a tool being used by current leadership to enact forced change without respect for experienced producers who manage their operations successfully and efficiently. The report highlights that climate initiatives have surpassed USDA policy priorities that ensure sufficient production and an affordable food supply. The USDA’s statement completely discounts the success of the American agricultural system both domestically and internationally. Transformation, then, serves no purpose but to jeopardize domestic food security and threaten American influence in global trade.
The Heritage model, accordingly, sets new priorities to “develop and disseminate agricultural information and research, identify and address concrete public health threats … and remove both unjustified foreign trade barriers for U.S. goods and domestic government barriers that undermine access to safe and affordable food.” The agency will govern itself under law, respect for personal freedoms, and service of the American people. This service aim, however, does not extend beyond providing aid to address actual need. The report demands an absolute removal or restriction of farmer payment programs that no longer provide just a safety net for operations exposed to risk and price loss. The project maintains that the original purpose of subsidies and payment programs has been corrupted, impacting planting decisions and resulting in double reimbursement that weighs heavily on taxpayers.
Similarly, the report accuses the Foreign Agricultural Service of overreaching into business responsibility, promoting domestic goods in foreign markets instead of focusing on establishing new markets, and removing barriers that exist in current trade. In failing to remove domestic and international trade barriers, the Biden administration has allowed unfounded fear to circulate biotechnology.
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To offset that, advice for the new Republican administration encourages the dispersal of accurate information to establish genetically engineered foods as common, safe, and efficient. The policy instructions clarify that a lack of action on this matter has allowed Mexico, America’s largest corn importer, to ban U.S. yellow corn on the grounds of genetic engineering concerns. A Republican administration aligned with the report’s priorities, should simply “remove improper barriers imposed by other countries to block U.S. goods.”
While Heritage does an excellent job of citing current issues and providing practical steps for change in agricultural leadership, there is little room for nuance given the report’s scope. It may be mentioned, however, that although environmental safety should not outshine agricultural productivity, environmental research has a place under the USDA’s umbrella. This research ought to be completed, not to transform agriculture, but to ensure that the U.S. continues to hold global power in food production through safe and efficient growing practices.
Americans are, as the Heritage report states, “blessed with an agricultural sector … worthy of incredible respect.” Agricultural policy that supports successful producers and ensures affordable consumption is at the backbone of America. As a great power competition gears up with China, this report serves as a reminder that government-inhibited supply chains will only cause the U.S. to stumble. Should Americans under a Republican administration wish to hold the upper hand, there is no better focus than a robust food supply that shackles competitors in reliance. A stronger USDA might require occasional controversial action, but it is vital to the nation’s stability and ultimate triumph.