By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell is responding to comments recently made by 5th District Congressman Mo Brooks regarding the organization’s advocacy efforts for trade with China.
During an appearance on the Dale Jackson radio show in Huntsville, Brooks accused farming groups, chambers of commerce, Walmart and other “entities” of siding with China over American interests.
“They use entities like ALFA, the [American] Farm Bureau, other farm unions around the United States… the Chinese are very good at putting those entities in a position where they are unwilling to do what it necessary to balance out trade with China or eliminate our dependency on China on so many things that are critical for life sustenance in America, medicines being number one.”
In a letter to Brooks obtained by Alabama Daily News, Parnell took serious issue with the congressman’s comments, calling them “not only unfair” but untrue.
“It is also an insult to the Alabama farmers who have endured punitive tariffs and low commodity prices while standing with President Donald Trump to hold China accountable.”
Parnell also said Brooks left out some important information in his radio criticism, namely that agriculture products are a “bright spot” in the trade imbalance.
“The Chinese people purchase more agricultural products from the U.S. than they export to the U.S. If you are truly concerned about addressing the overall trade deficit with China, you should be on the frontline advocating for more access for U.S. agricultural goods in China, rather than continuing this self-serving, divisive rhetoric which does nothing to advance the cause of liberty.”
On the radio, Brooks went so far as to say ALFA is “on the opposite side of America and on the side of the Chinese.”
“We’ve got to get those groups that are profiting from China trade to start recognizing that what they are doing is not in the best interests in the United States of America… With respect the ALFA, one of the big issues they have is ‘we have to sell our agricultural products to China,” and of course, that means we can’t engage in aggressive trade policies that would help balance our trade deficit with China because Alfa is on the opposite side of American and on the side of the Chinese.”
Indeed, the trade war with China has negatively impacted Alabama farmers, from falling prices to limiting markets. During an industry update last August, area farmers discussed how cotton and soybeans, two of Alabama’s largest products, had been particularly impacted because China has been a big customer. Yet, even at the height of some of the trade tension, state producers were sticking with Trump and his negotiating tactics toward the Chinese.
“About a third of what we produce is shipped overseas,” Parnell said at the time.
“One of the biggest challenges facing agriculture the last two years is trade. We’ve been in a bad position with some of our trading partners and they’ve taken advantage of America for the last 30 or 40 years. The Trump administration is trying to correct that, and most of our farmers are supportive. But it is painful for farmers in the interim.”
That same sentiment – that the Alabama Farmers’ Federation had stood with Trump even amid “pain” for the industry – is what Parnell wanted Brooks to understand.
“Alabama farmers have sold shoulder to shoulder with President Trump in his pursuit of leveling the playing field with China. When the Chinese government responded with the first round of retaliatory tariffs on the U.S., it was the farmer who suffered most.”
This is not the first time Brooks and the Alabama Farmers Federation have not seen eye to eye. The organization endorsed Brooks opponent in the Republican primary this year, a rare move against an incumbent congressman.
In response, Brooks sent his own letter back to the Alabama Farmers Federation detailing his opposition to several policies, including federal farm programs in the Farm Bill. Brooks voted for the Farm Bill in 2013 and 2018, but has maintained opposition to many of its provisions.
“Most of America’s farmers are the salt of the earth; good, patriotic people trying to make an honorable living,” Brooks wrote in a lengthy response letter to the farmers federation. “However, farmers’ political lobbying unions are, by definition, special interest groups that, by their very nature, demand and lobby for special treatment, favors, competitive advantages, and enrichment at taxpayer expense… It matters not one twit that the political force opposite me is one of Alabama’s two or three most powerful special interest groups.”