Sen. Bond discusses agricultural issues during port visit

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Undersecretary of agriculture also fields questions

Business Today

SCOTT CITY -- The 2002 farm bill, environmental barriers and public relations were a few of the topics Aug. 29 when U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and a U.S. Department of Agriculture official visited the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority.

Bond and Bill Hawks, undersecretary of agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, fielded questions and concerns by some of the area's agricultural leaders.

Bond said the farm bill, otherwise known as the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, would provide a safety net for farmers when the world market faces a downturn as it did in Asian countries in the late 1990s.

"A $12 billion reduction in exports to Southeast Asia caused a tremendous collapse in prices all across the board," Bond said after the meeting. "We put in emergency appropriations to prop up the income of farmers so that the low prices wouldn't run them out of business.

"What we did in the farm bill, rather than continuing to have emergencies passed each year, we put in a mechanism that there would be assistance for farmers when prices were low because of international trade barriers and collapses kept demand down."

The sentiment of the agriculture and business leaders - at least 20 - who attended the roundtable event was one of appreciation and encouragement.

Two members of the group raised concerns about public relations, saying liberal news media have tarnished the true objectives of farmers on a number of issues.

"We have been saying that we needed to do a better job of telling our story," Hawks said. "We have not effectively communicated."

There were other comments made about how many environmental policies get in the way of farmers doing their work.

The new farm bill, Hawks said, goes a long way in helping farmers in that regard. He also said that the Department of Agriculture under this administration is much more active in fighting for transportation issues.

Bond said transportation was important to Missouri farmers, and environmentalists want to shut down the rivers and flood them out.

"That doesn't do much for farmers or others who benefit from cost-efficient river transportation," he said. "We watched a towboat up the river that took 870 trucks off Interstate 55. That's good for the environment."

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