June 29, 2017

North Dakota’s Skunes Testifies on NAFTA at USTR Hearing

The North American Free Trade Agreement is critical for corn farmers and agriculture at large, and continuing its long-term success is a top priority to our members, National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Kevin Skunes testified Tuesday at a hearing of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to examine priorities for the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.

“North America has become the most important export market for the U.S. corn industry,” Skunes testified. “Corn farmers export about 20 percent of our annual corn crop, and exports account for about one-third of our income. Today, the agriculture economy is experiencing its fourth year of a downturn marked by low commodity prices. I cannot stress enough how important export markets are to our ability to stay in business.”

Skunes, a farmer from Arthur, North Dakota, highlighted how NAFTA has positively impacted U.S. agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico since its implementation in 1994.

“Free trade has benefitted American farmers, and NAFTA has been extremely valuable to our industry,” said Skunes. “Twenty-three years of investment has led to a sizeable increase in trade. Since 1994, U.S. corn exports to NAFTA partners have increased more than seven-fold. Today, we export a record volume of more than 14 million metric tons of corn to Mexico and Canada, valued at $2.68 billion. In 2016, corn exports to these two neighbors supported 25,000 jobs, on top of helping support 300,000 U.S. corn farmers.”

Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. corn as well as a significant market for distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Canada is a top-10 export market for corn and DDGS, and the number one export market for U.S. ethanol.

NCGA’s top priority for NAFTA modernization is to preserve duty-free access for corn and corn products, and to expand market access for corn in all forms, including livestock products, DDGS, and ethanol, Skunes told government officials.

“We look forward to working with USTR and the Administration to build on the success corn farmers and the broader agriculture industry have enjoyed under NAFTA.”

Click here for Skunes’ full prepared testimony.

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House Agriculture Committee Features University Leaders in Agricultural Research – Audio

The House Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing to discuss investments in agricultural research as a continuation of the committee’s hearing series on preparing for the next farm bill.

Chairman Michael Conaway and members of the committee heard from various university representatives on the opportunities and challenges institutions face in ensuring the U.S. remains a world leader in agricultural research and scientific advancement.

Ms. Carrie L. Billy, President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Alexandria, VA, told the committee that funding for specialty crops research has been essential to an important restoration effort that’s underway in the Northern Plains being conducted by tribal colleges.

             Ms Carrie Billy – House Ag Hearing

Following the hearing on Capitol Hill, Chairman Conaway made the below remarks:

“Research is the driving force behind American agricultural innovation. Farmers and ranchers have long depended on advances in science and innovation to carry on through tough economic times. The current state of the rural economy only further underscores the need to continue making key investments in our agricultural research system. While our nation’s serious budget issues must be addressed, we must do so without jeopardizing our status as the world leader in cutting-edge agricultural research.”

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Syngenta Statement on the Jury Verdict in the Viptera trial in Kansas City, Kansas

A Kansas jury issued a verdict Friday in the first trial brought by U.S. farmers alleging Syngenta caused five years of depressed corn prices through the careless marketing of its genetically modified MIR 162 corn seed.  Syngenta issued the following statement on June 23, 2017,

 “We are disappointed with today’s verdict because it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the U.S.  The case is without merit and we will move forward with an appeal and continue to defend the rights of American farmers to access safe and effective U.S.- approved technologies.

Syngenta commercialized Agrisure Viptera in full compliance with U.S. regulatory and legal requirements, including USDA, EPA, and FDA regulations.  Viptera had also received approval in the key import markets recommended at the time by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and other industry associations.

Syngenta believes that American farmers should have access to the latest U.S.-approved technology to help them increase their productivity and yield.  American farmers shouldn’t have to rely on a foreign government to decide what products they can use on their farms.

 More information on the litigation is available at www.vipterachinafacts.com.”

Officials with Syngenta say the company plans to file an appeal.

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