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There should be no surprise that Kansas’ two U.S. senators, both Republicans, are staking out positions that prioritize the free trade interests of Kansans.
But brace yourself: If you hail from farm country, they want you to join their fight, and soon.
Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran know the importance of tax reform in improving economic growth and boosting household incomes. They support that effort, as well as renegotiating sections of trade agreements that unfairly penalize segments of American industry.
But they also are helpful in sounding alarms about wholesale scrapping of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened.
Since 1993, when the pact was signed into law, Roberts reports U.S. agricultural exports have increased 265 percent to Canada and 289 percent to Mexico. Moran notes Kansas exported more than $4.5 billion worth of agricultural products in 2016, and he says about 40 to 45 percent of planted acres in the state serve export markets.
This is the context when the senators warn about what could happen if farm-state interests do not make their concerns known.
“President Trump has been consistent in his criticism of trade deals, especially NAFTA, and every indication coming from the administration points toward outright withdrawal from the agreement,” Moran wrote in an open letter released Wednesday.
“Terminating a major trade deal would be unprecedented, which may make the threat hard for some to take seriously. But I am convinced our country is headed down a path toward withdrawal from NAFTA unless action is taken by agricultural groups to change the administration’s course.”
Roberts, meanwhile, recently has advocated for a grass-roots effort involving producers and other agribusiness leaders telling personal stories about what is at stake.
“Everybody talks about numbers in Washington and so it just seems to me that we can make a better point if we make it very personal,” he said.
Both men make clear they are not criticizing individuals or agricultural groups for their efforts to this point. They also don’t want to pick a fight with tax writers. But Moran sums up the need for more average people from farm communities to write their members of Congress and otherwise raise their voices about the importance of preserving free trade:
“Tax rates are irrelevant to the farmer or rancher who loses half of their income due to lost export markets.”
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