Agriculture is a bright spot in our nation's economy, sustainably meeting growing demands to provide food, feed, fuel and fiber for the world. Nebraska's producers are masters of efficiency and make high-quality products. As the landscape continues to evolve, public policy will have to change with it. Getting these policies right is the key to the continued success of our farmers and ranchers and the reason why I serve as co-chair of the Modern Agriculture Caucus.
With the 2008 Farm Bill set to expire this year, Congress has taken the initial steps toward a new authorization. In traveling the Third District as part of my ongoing Farm Bill listening tour, I've heard from producers with a variety of perspectives about how the future of agriculture policy should look. The nation is currently facing record-high deficits requiring difficult decisions, and I commend producers for their forward thinking.
One aspect on which many agree is the importance of a strong, responsible, and efficient risk management system. We need to build on the successes of the crop insurance program to ensure the system works for all regions and producers. As I continue to travel the Third District, I look forward to gathering more input from you. More information about the Farm Bill and my ongoing listening tour can be found on my website: www.adriansmith.house.gov.
The growing role of international trade also is having a major impact on agriculture in Nebraska and throughout the country. With 95 percent of all consumers residing outside of the United States, the future of agriculture is increasingly connected to trade policy. Opening new export markets has been a top legislative priority for me on the House Ways and Means Committee. The new free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, for example, will offer our farmers and ranchers a more level playing field to compete in these countries for new customers.
Nebraska's producers already are seeing the benefits of these high-standard agreements as South Korea recently began the process of lowering its tariff on U.S. red meat from 40 percent to zero. In addition, on May 15th the Colombian Free Trade Agreement will enter into force and begin reducing the 80 percent tariff levied on high quality U.S. beef. New opportunities such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership could offer even more market access for Nebraska's agriculture products.
On all fronts, policy should be guided by sound science. When politics becomes the primary consideration, the end result is almost always harmful. As we saw with the baseless media scare over lean finely textured beef, politics trumping science hurts both producers and consumers. I appreciate the bipartisanship in setting the record straight on this issue as well as on advancing new trade and farm policy. Certainly, this cooperation has been a breath of fresh air in an era dominated by political brinksmanship.
The future of agriculture in Nebraska remains bright. My ultimate goal is to create policies which strengthen American agriculture and provide the long-term certainty producers need to grow our rural communities. The continued success of agriculture, and in turn the long-term safety and security of our nation's food supply, depends on our unwavering commitment to forward thinking, science-based public policy.
For more information about this issue, the latest developments in Congress, or to sign up for Congressman Smith's e-mail newsletter, please visit http://adriansmith.house.gov.