As an ag professional, thinking of the future should come naturally. You’re in the business of harvesting and sowing. A great deal of planning is involved in these tasks to create a future that is not seen firsthand. So it’s understandable to get immersed in the day to day and lose sight of the 10,000-foot views of how agriculture will shape in the new year.

As thoughts of new equipment and payroll costs for 2018 are looming through your head, here are some other points to ponder for next year.

Farm bill, farm bill, farm bill

With tax reform and the federal budget taking the oxygen out of the Congressional air, the House Agriculture Committee has not taken up debate for the upcoming farm bill this year. Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) expects the committee to address the subject sometime in February, at the earliest. For a political body not known for its punctuality, the House will be under pressure to show progress on this agricultural necessity during a session when the Republican majority has few legislative wins to boast about.

Immigration progress

The first steps to E-Verify were made when the House Judiciary Committee passed through the Agricultural Guestworker Act (Ag Act) and the Legal Workforce Act. The Ag Act would replace the Department of Labor’s H-2A guestworker program with a new guestworker program, called H-2C, overseen by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Legal Workforce Act would require U.S. employees to check the eligibility of new hires with the E-Verify system. The American Farm Bureau and the United Fresh Association praised the move that happened earlier last October, but both groups noted that there is still work to be done.

Immigration has been a cornerstone in the Trump administration’s policy agenda; however, the agriculture industry has been keeping an eye on how this dynamic will play out as the Congressional schedule continues to grind slowly.

What about trade?

Could 2018 be the year the rubber meets the road? The Trump administration’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has morphed into intent to withdraw, leaving the nation’s more prominent ag groups with real concern. In addition, such posture is leaving Mexico to test the trade waters with other regions, for instance, Latin American countries such as Brazil and Argentina. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue had noted that to pull out of NAFTA would hurt U.S. producers in the short term. However, he remained optimistic that farmers would be able to adapt to the market reaction. Whether the president makes good on his promise, something surely has to give.

Lastly, as this year comes to a close, on behalf of the FARMING staff, we would like to wish you Happy Holidays and a bountiful 2018. Also, thank you for the 20 years of your faithful readership to FARMING.