LINCOLN — Sen. Ben Sasse said Tuesday the United States “needs to get through hard trade negotiations with China (and) get trade wars out of the way” so markets can be reopened and expanded for U.S. agricultural products.
In the meantime, he said, the House needs to approve the new U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada negotiated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
All of that is critically important to Nebraska agriculture, Sasse said, which will suffer an estimated $1 billion loss of trade markets for its farm products for the second year in a row.
And that comes on top of a major hit from “a really hard set of weather circumstances” earlier this year, Sasse said, along with continuing ethanol refinery waivers that drive down the demand for corn.
Trade is “the 800-pound gorilla,” said the Republican senator, “and trade wars have taken their toll on Nebraskans.
“We need export markets,” he said. “Nebraska needs more trade.
“We recognize the long-term fight with China is a big deal,” Sasse said.
“Nebraska farmers and ranchers are willing to be patient,” he said, but the United States “should be leading” in terms of Asian trade.
The billion-dollar loss for Nebraska agriculture because of trade policy this year was the estimate contained in a report released earlier in the day by the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Sasse’s reaction followed a human trafficking field hearing that he conducted in Lincoln as chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee on national security and international trade and finance.
The committee heard testimony from Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, state Sen. Julie Slama of Peru and two other invited guests.
“We are now four years into our formal statewide effort to accomplish our three-fold goal,” Peterson said. “Help the victims and survivors; stop the traffickers; end the market.”
A centerpiece of the effort is to “begin with a presumption that someone being provided for commercial sex is a victim,” he said.
“We aim to make human trafficking in Nebraska a high-risk, low-profit proposal,” the attorney general said.
Slama said “human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” and combating it has been one of her legislative priorities.
“Human trafficking is a growing industry,” she said, “and make no mistake about it, this form of slavery is not just limited to urban areas.
“It reaches across our country, even to rural Nebraska.”