November 20, 2017

NAFTA Debate Holds Up Another Agriculture Nominee

The contentious NAFTA re-negotiations are holding up another agriculture nominee in the Senate.  Arizona Republican Jeff Flake has put a hold on the confirmation of Gregg Doud, President Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Trade Representative’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator.  Sources say the hold involves concerns surrounding a controversial produce proposal that the United States has introduced into the North American Free Trade Agreement Negotiations. The seasonal produce proposal is aimed at protecting U.S. farmers from cheaper Mexican imports.

Growers in the southeastern U.S. support the proposal. Flake argues that the move would raise the cost of production, reduce the selection of fruits and vegetables for consumers, and hurt growers in western states like Flake’s home-state of Arizona. The largest U.S. port of entry for produce is located in Arizona. Flake hasn’t said what it would take to get him to lift the hold. Flake wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking him to commit to withdrawing the proposal at the next round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City. Flake wrote, “Efforts that lead to unnecessary restrictions on trade with our North American partners will have devastating economic consequences both in Arizona and nationwide.”

On the wholeDoud has been viewed as a favorable and non-controversial candidate.  He served for eight years as the Chief Economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association before moving on to serve as an economist for the Senate Ag Committee.  There, he worked under both Thad Cochran and Pat Roberts and was instrumental in crafting the 2014 Farm Bill.

Doud isn’t the only candidate held up as President Trump tries to fill positions during first year of office.  Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who flew through the confirmation process in October has a hold placed on him by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, reportedly in response the Iowa and other Midwestern states ability to reverse a series of incoming regulations many viewed as anti-renewable fuels.

USDA Chief Scientist Takes Issue With WHO Recommendations

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released recommendations regarding the use of antibiotics in agriculture. Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Acting Chief Scientist, today issued the following statement:

“The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals.”

“The WHO previously requested that the standards for on-farm antibiotic use in animals be updated through a transparent, consensus, science-based process of CODEX. However, before the first meeting of the CODEX was held, the WHO released these guidelines, which according to language in the guidelines are based on ‘low-quality evidence,’ and in some cases, ‘very low-quality evidence.'”

“Under current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy, medically important antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion in animals. In the U.S., the FDA allows for the use of antimicrobial drugs in treating, controlling, and preventing disease in food-producing animals under the professional oversight of licensed veterinarians. While the WHO guidelines acknowledge the role of veterinarians, they would also impose unnecessary and unrealistic constraints on their professional judgement.”

“USDA agrees that we need more data to assess progress on antimicrobial use and resistance, and we need to continue to develop alternative therapies for the treatment, control, and prevention of disease in animals. We remain committed to addressing antimicrobial resistance in people and animals. We will continue to work with the WHO, World Organization for Animal Health, and Food and Agriculture Organization to promote antibiotic stewardship to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.”

U.S. Meat Export Federation Works To Overcome Trade Uncertainties – AUDIO

Livestock producers know: There’s no shortage of red meat in the U.S. right now. The U.S. Meat Export Federation is looking at a busy year trying to get that meat out into different markets. Dennis Stiffler is the new Chair of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.  He says the American trade agenda is a little bit uncertain right now. While USMEF doesn’t deal with policy, he says there are ways the group can help overcome some of that uncertainty:

Stiffler USMEF 1

Lamb is another product that has a lot of export opportunities:

Stiffler USMEF 2

Thirty percent of the American population has never eaten lamb, with the average per capita consumption at less than one pound. American meat consumers may not realize that lamb and goat are two of the most popular sources of protein around the globe:

Stiffler USMEF 3

Stiffler says there are two strategies used to promote products like lamb and other protein sources across the globe, by either price or differentiation from similar products.