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"Trade in the Trump era is a debate as much as a struggle to land new agreements — and the American Farm Bureau Federation is taking the ideological fight to the grass roots, with help from two former U.S. senators. Max Baucus and Richard Lugar have teamed with the Farm Bureau to form a new group, Farmers for Free Trade, that will seek to mobilize farmers nationwide as a force for supporting existing and future trade deals. As NAFTA remains under threat and uncertainty clouds U.S. trade policy in Asia, the group will focus on farming communities and rural towns in all 50 states to call attention to the importance of trade to farmers and the rural economy. “We’re going to drive home the threats to export markets like Mexico, Canada, South Korea are threats to states like Kansas, Kentucky and Washington,” said Sara Lilygren, president of the group’s board of directors, during a press call on Tuesday afternoon. The effort will seize on the general frustration in the agriculture industry toward the Trump administration’s trade policy, which many in the export-oriented sector argue started off with a misstep when the newly elected president abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and then put at risk major benefits to agriculture by initiating a renegotiation of NAFTA. “We’re hurting ourselves, especially for agriculture," said Baucus, a Democrat from Montana who also served for three years as U.S. ambassador to China under the Obama administration. "I can’t tell you how strongly I see other countries working very hard, much harder than we are, to promote their products and, especially, agricultural products.” Lugar, an Indiana Republican who once chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee, used the word "desperate" to describe the situation that now confronts U.S. agriculture, which has suffered from a stubborn economic downturn over the last few years...The Farmers for Free Trade campaign will work with state and local officials nationwide, but its initial thrust will be made in major commodity-producing states such as Washington, Kansas and Kentucky where trade policy decisions could have a greater impact, Lilygren said...The group will appoint a leader in each state to coordinate efforts to engage with government officials, economic development organizations and media."

Posted October 11th, 2017
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