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Farmers to Smith: Protect safety net and expand trade

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Farmers willingly gave up government money, now they ask Congressman Adrian Smith to protect the federal safety net and expand market opportunities.

“There's a lot of concern about trade agreements,” Smith said during a listening session in Aurora.

His message to Pres. Trump – “Don't forget about agriculture.”

Smith says farmers don't want a government check, they want to ship Nebraska beef and corn around the world.

“Producing for the market is much more rewarding, much more profitable,” he said.

And the farmers sharing with the congressman at the farm bill listening session agree. They want Congress to continue funding for programs that open new markets.

Hog and corn farmer Mark McHargue said, “They are a huge service to myself as a producer and to agriculture and certainly Nebraska.”

Farmers willingly gave up billions in direct payments in the last farm bill.

State Ag Director Greg Ibach said, “We made a trade that we would take crop insurance in lieu of direct payments.”

“We have together said as producers we would rather have the insurance side of things and so we're going to be very protective and adamant about maintaining the budget line item for that,” said McHargue, Vice President of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Crop insurance makes up just eight percent of the farm bill. 80 percent goes to SNAP, the food stamp program, and nutrition programs.

Smith said, “In a perfect world the two issues would be separate. But given various dynamics and votes, they need to be put together.”

Congressman Smith says there are benefits to keeping food production and consumption under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture.

And after a tumultuous effort to pass the last farm bill, smith is hopeful this time will be better.

With provisions that protect the safety net, and break down trade barriers.

“Removing obstacles, I think we'll all be better off,” Smith said.

For livestock producers, he congressman said the Livestock Indemnity Program that provides relief following disasters is “meager” and should continue.

And overall, he's hopeful they can get a farm bill passed by next year.

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