Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) authored an op-ed this week in FarmWeekNow discussing America's trade agenda and the impact of trade on Illinois agriculture. Rep. LaHood also spoke with RFD Radio about the outlook for future trade agreements.

Originally published on Moving a strong trade agenda forward
By Congressman Darin LaHood

Farmers across the Midwest are experiencing one of the best commodity price reversals in decades. The prices for corn and soybeans have jumped significantly over the last several months and while there are multiple contributing factors, the rewards of the full implementation of the phase one trade deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) have no doubt helped drive this turnaround in prices.

As recently as early 2020, farmers were experiencing extremely low prices with corn below $3.50 per bushel and soybeans below $8.30 per bushel. At those prices, farmers could not turn a profit and even worse, were facing the prospect of not keeping their farming operation open. Coupled with marketplace disruptions caused by COVID-19, farm families were experiencing one of the most challenging years in recent memory.

However, more recently, strong demand in both the domestic and international markets returned, driving corn prices to more than $5.50 per bushel and soybeans to more than $14.30 per bushel. The increase has given farmers some optimism as they move through planting season and as our economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agriculture industry supports close to 500,000 jobs in Illinois and is the No. 1 industry in our state. Without free, open, and fair trade, family farms in our state wouldn’t be able to survive.

During my time as a member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, I have prioritized trade agreements that open markets for our agricultural products and spur job creation here in Illinois. In the 117th Congress, I am honored to have also secured an appointment to the committee’s Trade Subcommittee where I will have the opportunity to further engage in and lead on this important issue for our economy and provide Illinois farmers a seat at the table for important trade negotiations.

With Illinois being a primary agriculture hub, our farmers not only add to our state’s economy, but they fuel the nation’s as well. While the agriculture industry generated $51.1 billion for our state’s economy, Illinois also accounted for 4% of our country’s agriculture sales, and 81% of that comes from crops. Yet the financial impacts don’t stop there. Our farm economy is the lifeblood of rural communities, and we can strengthen the future of our region by expanding fair trade opportunities. As we witnessed in 2020, prices in our commodity markets for corn and beans are more likely to strengthen when we proactively grow demand for our agricultural products.

The farmers I represent compete and win on the global scale as well. Over the past four years, we have made great strides on trade, negotiating in a bipartisan fashion to accomplish a large purchase agreement with China and to modernize our trade relationship with Mexico and Canada. Our recently completed agreements contain sections that should act as templates for ongoing negotiations with the European Union, United Kingdom, Kenya, India, and Brazil. I urge the Biden administration to work with Congress to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority on time, to prioritize completing high standard free trade agreements, especially those already under negotiation and with our allies, to work toward a phase two agreement with China, and to renew efforts to reform the World Trade Organization to create a more level playing field and hold bad actors accountable.

When Illinois farmers win, our country prospers. We all experienced many ups and downs during 2020, and the ag economy was no different. As we emerge from market anxieties and leave behind the disruptions caused by the pandemic, I know I’ll be continuing to focus on our country’s trade agenda and working to improve demand for our agricultural products around the world through trade.