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Opinion: Agricultural policies matter in ’16 election

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In the midst of debates and with Election Day quickly approaching, the importance of agricultural policy is even more pressing. In fact, everyone has a stake in American agriculture and protecting our farmers and ranchers’ ability to produce. Agricultural policy issues hit home for all Americans, both on and off the farm.

Agricultural policy matters in the current election for many reasons. Agricultural policy influences key issues and impacts the overall prosperity of the United States.

Two leading issues on both the debate stage and the farm are international trade and immigration. Each year, approximately 36 percent of agricultural products are produced for international markets, with 95 percent of consumers outside our borders. International trade brings billions of dollars into the economy and helps create jobs. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase farm income and agriculture exports, with annual net farm income growing by $4.4 billion and U.S. agriculture exports increasing by $5.3 billion. The partnership is expected to add 40,000 jobs or more here at home.

Farmers and ranchers work hard to get their products from their farms to our grocery stores and dinner tables. Seasonal and temporary workers are vital to accomplishing this, especially during busy seasons like harvest. But every year, agriculture faces a serious labor shortage coupled with crippling delays in the H-2A worker visa program. In a 2014 study, Farm Bureau found that America will lose an estimated $60 billion in agriculture production if we increase immigration enforcement without also increasing access to a reliable migrant workforce. A workable solution to immigration reform must ensure both reliable agricultural labor and border security.

Everyone benefits from agriculture, and we protect our nation’s food supply by protecting our farmers’ ability to keep doing what they do best. Farmers and ranchers produce food, fiber and energy sources that are important for domestic prosperity. All Americans should take an interest in policies that help farmers and ranchers provide safe and affordable products while boosting their local economies.

Urban and rural voters can learn more about the importance of agricultural policy and where the candidates stand on these issues at Farm Bureau’s special election blog, Election16.fb.org.

Shiloh Perry is a communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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