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Views and opinions: Nebraska paper: Global trade too valuable to lose


Kearney Hub

Kearney, Neb.

May 18, 2018

Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and other agricultural states want trade opportunities and access to global markets, not government checks from Uncle Sam. That was the message this week to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue from Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson of Axtell.

Nelson and his counterparts leading state Farm Bureau organizations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin want an end to escalating trade disputes resulting from President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. In their letters to Perdue, Nelson and the rest express strong concerns that the president’s tough talk on trade is undermining years of effort to open more global markets for U.S. agricultural products.

“Farmers and ranchers know growing our customer base outside our borders is critical to our economic survival,” Nelson said. “The development of international trade rules and passage of free trade agreements, while never perfect, have helped the United States and the Midwest in particular.

“Agriculture trade between China and our Midwestern states amounted to just under $4.5 billion in 2017 alone.”

Trade missions, checkoff programs and other investments in research and marketing are growing international markets, but farmers and ranchers worry that federal interference will negate decades of work.

Acknowledging the potential monetary loss for U.S. agriculture, Trump has suggested repaying American farmers for their losses in a trade war. Farmers aren’t interested in a handout. They want to see their long-term efforts pan out with new customers overseas.

The last several months have been nerve racking in farm country, and the nervousness is only growing stronger as Trump threatens to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement with our largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

Trump already withdrew from Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations and has threatened steel and aluminum tariffs, a move that ignited reciprocal actions by China. The fallout was an immediate loss of commodities market value for soybean producers.

It’s time for Trump to reel in his tariff threats. Foreign trade is too important to Nebraska producers. Farm Bureau claims the average export value to China per Nebraska farm/ranch was roughly $16,600 in 2017.

Uncle Sam cannot afford to replace such losses to every farming or ranching operation across the Midwest.

Grocery stores are vital in small communities

The Memphis Daily News

Memphis, Tenn.

May 12, 2018

The business of food is in a cycle of change from farm to table – whether it’s blowing up the Memphis barbecue stereotype or how we get our groceries.

All parts of that chain are to be found in Memphis business and culture.

This is where Clarence Saunders innovated the modern supermarket concept with self-service Piggly Wiggly stores, a new experience for shoppers who were used to having a neighborhood grocer fill their orders and have them ready for pickup or doorstep delivery.

In many ways, we’ve come full circle: With the few clicks of a mouse, we can order groceries online and – depending on the service – either pick them up at the store or have them delivered to our homes. (FedEx, another Memphis innovation, has the doorstep delivery option down pat.)

The latest evolution in the grocery-buying process isn’t an improvement for all of us.

Supermarkets are opening in clustered areas, pockets of activity where customers can choose from several grocers, depending on their preference or selection.

Other areas of the city, meanwhile, are classified as food deserts because they lack access to a retail source of a wide variety of food - particularly produce and other fresh products. In our city, this isolation is made worse by the lack of a viable and vibrant public transportation system.

When Kroger closed its stores in Southgate and Orange Mound earlier this year it became even clearer how essential these businesses are to a community’s ability to sustain itself and grow. The closings also demonstrated the hard decisions businesses make in an industry where profit margins are historically narrow and as a result, it doesn’t take a whole lot in the way of losses to force action by the front office.

As those stores closed, new experiments that are more grocery store than supermarket are underway in Binghampton, along with existing templates like the South Memphis Farmers Market, which works with grocers as suppliers for a limited range of products that the market otherwise couldn’t offer at competitive prices.

These are smaller-scale operations that don’t have all of the bells and whistles of a big-box supermarket where shoppers can buy everything they need in one location.

Food is not just any business. It’s one of those businesses that has a relationship with the growth of a community. Existing growth, along with the potential for more, draws the interest of business owners. And their presence guarantees even more interest and development.

These are difficult deals to land, and it’s likely many more fall by the wayside than come to fruition.

Business owners generally aren’t community builders. That may be a byproduct of what they do, but they rarely take a chance on locating in an area unless they have some indication the neighborhood is stable or growing.

Communities are a bigger lift that require more hands and shoulders and backs. And there’s a role for government in offering tax breaks and other incentives that are smaller and more targeted than the ones normally associated with such projects.

Creating communities isn’t easy work. Businesses, including small-scale operations, are an ingredient – just like neighborhoods and parks and schools – that plays a crucial role in our civic bottom line.