Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) came to the Annual Meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina in Raleigh, Feb. 1, straight from Washington, D.C., where politicians have been engaged in what sometimes seems like endless wrangling over the budget. They now face the seemingly certain likelihood of sequestration, or automatic cuts.
Burr told the audience his feelings about the way to navigate budget pitfalls.
"It is not as easy to do if you want to continue to have things in place that future generations benefit from, either for their livelihood or their stability -- and I would suggest to you, for America's future," he said.
"So what is the answer? The answer is very simple. Put the American people back to work. Change the policies that are in place that discourage success and replace them with unlimited opportunity."
Those policies include tools like robust trade agreements, Burr said. He noted U.S. trade negotiators went through the last four years and were able to "eke through a couple of trade agreements that had no benefit to the partners that we signed them with."
The benefit, he said, "was to the United States, to our manufacturers, to our growers.
"Because farm prices in their markets went down," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are not going to put the trade genie back in the bottle. And if you are not going to put the trade genie back in the bottle, and you can't, then you ought to have as many trade agreements with everybody around the world that you can.
"The biggest beneficiary of that is going to be a state like North Carolina," Burr continued, "because agriculture is the 800-pound gorilla – that the United States has to play in an international market."
Burr said he couldn't promise attendees that Senators and Representatives would be able to come to agreement and balance the budget. However, he said, in the long view he was optimistic about the future of the country - if the American people take a principled stand.
"We can't stand (spending) $1 trillion more than we take in much longer, before it has dire consequences," he explained. "We can't continue to have policies that cap opportunity and believe that our country will be the leader of the world. We can't lead from behind and believe that people will take us seriously."