U.S. Rep. Crawford talks farming, Mueller investigation

U.S. Rep. Crawford talks farming, Mueller investigation
Written by: Roby Brock
Published by: Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, has reservations about an agricultural mitigation package and he thinks passage of the Farm Bill can resolve many uncertainties for the state’s largest economic engine.

In an interview on this weekend’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Crawford said he has reservations about President Donald Trump’s $12 billion bailout option for tariff-injured farmers.

“I’ve got some reservations about this,” said Crawford, who is a House conferee on the Farm Bill. “My problem is this: This is why we have a farm bill. The programs are in place. If you fall below reference price, that would trigger a payment. And so, we already have those programs in place. So, I’m a little bit concerned about the $12-billion aid package.”

On Monday, after Crawford’s interview aired, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out details of the $12 billion mitigation package. Some highlights included:

  • $6 billion in payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers starting September 4, 2018. An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months, if warranted.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will administer a Food Purchase and Distribution Program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation.
  • Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.

“I don’t think we need it. I think it’s comforting if you’re a farmer to know that the president comes out and says, “Hey, we got this $12-billion aid package “so if China really wants to play hardball, “we got this as a backstop.” But I think that’s really all it is, because under our current policy and with the markets being what they are right now, you wouldn’t receive a payment anyway.

Crawford noted that soybean prices, for instance, have rebounded from their $8.50 per bushel lows. He also said that due to crop failures in other countries that could replace U.S. supplies, foreign countries like China will have to eventually buy American soybeans even if they are bought through a third country.

Also after the interview taping with Crawford, President Trump announced a tentative deal with Mexico to alter the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Initial reports suggest that agricultural tariffs between the U.S. and Mexico will remain unchanged at zero percent.

The First District Republican, who is running for re-election to a fifth term against Democratic challenger Chintan Desai and Libertarian Elvis Presley, recently declared that the President’s tariff war was a “long game” to correct trade imbalances around the globe. Crawford says farmers can make it through the short-term setbacks for a better deal.

“I think what we’re seeing right now is a very strategic patience being exhibited by farmers, and I’ve talked to an awful lot of them,” he said. “They call me and they say, ‘Look, we think this is the right thing. We’re going to endure some short-term discomfort.’ But even when you talk about short-term discomfort, we’re already seeing the markets moving back up in a positive trajectory.”

Crawford warned that farmers can make a profit under distressful conditions, but they need to guard against greed.

“The old saying goes, ‘Bears make money, bulls make money, and hogs get slaughtered.’ So, when you’re waiting around for that extra 25 cents and you watch the markets fall $2, you’ve left some money on the table and it’s hard to get that back,” he said.

Crawford also weighed in with thoughts on the investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Crawford sits on the House Intelligence Committee, which closed its investigation this summer in a party-line vote that drew the ire of Democrats who suggested there was more for the panel to investigate.

“I think that we have a very limited scope and resources. We’re not part of the judicial branch in our scope. We’re not part of the judiciary. So, for what was available to us, the resources available and the charter that we had with regard to conducting this investigation, I think it was appropriate. The findings that we came up with support that there was no Russia collusion. What we also found is that there was certainly Russia interference, but John Brennan said that in an open hearing and we know this has been going on for decades. And so, there’s really kinda no news there.

He says “collusion” still seems to be the divisive issue for the committee and Congress. If Mueller’s investigation turns up new evidence, Crawford said it may be best for the Special Prosecutor to handle it going forward.

“I think it probably needs to be left in the special prosecutor’s lane. And, I’ll tell ya, he’s got the resources,” he said.

Could the House Intelligence Committee re-open its investigation if new evidence arises? Perhaps, says Crawford, who added that potential impeachment proceedings against the president are too hypothetical at this point.

“I can’t answer that today, and I’ll tell you why I can’t answer that today is because just to arbitrarily say, ‘Go prove a crime and I’ll support impeachment,’ I’m not sure that I’m in a position to answer that question today,” he said. “I would like to say that if an elected official commits a crime and impeachment charges are brought against them for that reason, then that’s probably indicated. But we don’t know and I’m not going to speculate.”

You can watch Rep. Crawford’s full interview below.

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