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Forum editorial: Trade bill has a net for farmers

An idea that has been kicking around the nation's capital for 40 years is part of a trade bill passed last week by the Senate -- a bill the president will sign into law.

An idea that has been kicking around the nation's capital for 40 years is part of a trade bill passed last week by the Senate -- a bill the president will sign into law.

The provision -- assistance for farmers hurt by unfair trade -- first was advanced by President John Kennedy in 1962. This year it was reintroduced by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and it passed as part of the larger trade bill.

It was a good idea 40 years ago and it's a good idea today. And it's not a radical concept.

Similar protections are in place for factory workers who are displaced when imported manufactured goods flood the U.S. market and cause them to lose their jobs, said Sen. Conrad. But farmers hurt by similar forces have never had such protection.

The Conrad-Grassley bipartisan initiative corrects the unfairness. Farmers can now seek help when it can be shown that agricultural imports affect markets and cause significant income losses.

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Unfair trade dislocations already have been demonstrated. For example, two recent investigations showed the Canadian Wheat Board had manipulated U.S. grain markets to the detriment of American farmers. The U.S. Trade Representative has the evidence but has yet to order sanctions against Canada, preferring to force the Wheat Board to the negotiating table to address the matter.

Under the Conrad-Grassley farmer protection provision of the trade bill, farmers would be compensated when they could show income losses because of Canadian trade practices.

Conrad has long been a critic of hemispheric and global trade pacts because of the damage he says they have caused to American industry and agriculture. While we disagree with him about overall free trade policy, we applaud the Conrad-Grassley farmer assistance provision that extends a reasonable safety net for factory workers to the nation's farmers.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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