MANHATTAN — U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts on Monday said the agriculture industry in Kansas could use more consistency from President Donald Trump on trade policy.
He also said congressional delegates are in constant contact about the farm bill and making progress toward a compromise. The current bill expires at the end of the month.
Roberts, R-Kan., spoke on farming and trade concerns after a tour of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility at Kansas State University in Manhattan, and offered pointed commentary on the “noise” generated out of Washington when stories get written because, “you know, somebody tweets something.”
Rather than read the anonymous, scathing rebuke of Trump by one of the president’s senior officials, which the New York Times published as an opinion article last week, Roberts said he spends all of his time working through negotiations on the farm bill.
When he comes home at night, he asks his wife what’s happening, “and she lets me know about some crazy op-ed.”
Lawmakers are preparing to meet Wednesday to find a compromise on the farm bill, Roberts said, and “compromise is not a four-letter word.”
“I think we’re making some progress with regard to everybody has to know that they have to give something, and everybody has their priorities, but the top priority is to get the bill done,” Roberts said. “And if we don’t do that, we are doing a disservice to farmers, ranchers and everybody connected to the food chain.”
He said the agriculture industry is going through a rough stretch with prices flailing amid an escalating trade war launched by Trump, whose strategy seems to change.
Just one month ago, Roberts said, Trump was willing to consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but then he walked it back. The president exited the trade agreement shortly after taking office.
Consistency from Trump “could be a significant help, yes,” Roberts said. “Then you wouldn’t have people like me saying we’re in a bad patch and price is down, farm income down, Mother Nature not really helping out, and a trade policy that has a question mark. And we end up using agriculture as a pawn.”
More recently, Trump announced he had reached a tentative deal with Mexico and would terminate the North America Free Trade Agreement.
Canada has proven to be an obstacle in efforts by Trump’s administration to reconstruct a pact with border countries. Roberts pondered the challenge of rebuilding a trade agreement and said Mexico already has turned to Argentina for wheat it formerly purchased from Kansas.
“Once you push Humpty Dumpty off the wall, you’ve got to come back and work hard to put him back together again,” Roberts said.