October 8, 2015

Audio – The Sales Pitch for TPP

The President traveled to USDA headquarters on Tuesday to accompany Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack in a meeting with private business folks to deliver a sales pitch in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

On a press call Tuesday afternoon, Vilsack talked about the potential boost in agriculture exports that will develop thanks to lower tariffs on a broad array of items.

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Beyond tariffs, the agreement also addresses sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to U.S. products that may not be based on sound science.

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Several agricultural groups have praised negotiators for finalizing the deal, but many are waiting to analyze and understand the full details before declaring outright support.

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One of the biggest obstacles during negotiations was market access for U.S. dairy products into Canada and Japan.

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According to some early reports, the deal could allow more U.S. dairy product imports into Canada that will equal about 3.25% of the Canadian milk supply.

Congress is expected to get the legal documents for the deal sometime this week, and then lawmakers will have 30 days to review them before the agreement is made public.

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The next step will be a full economic review of the deal by the U.S. International Trade Commission. The agency has up to 105 days to complete that work.

Given the timeline and the building election season in the U.S., some pundits don’t expect a Congressional vote on the deal until after the elections in the lame duck session of Congress.

One of the quickest criticisms of the trade deal after it was announced was the absence of language addressing currency manipulation.


Give a Hand to Honey Bees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced the availability of $4 million in assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Midwestern and northern plains states. The targeted conservation effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service aims to improve the health of this critical pollinator in a region where more than two-thirds of the nation’s honey bee population spends the summer months, pollinating crops and building strength to survive winter.

“The future of our food supply depends on honey bees,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “This effort partners with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to ensure honey bees have safe and diverse food sources during a time when they need it most.”

Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops annually, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. One out of every three bites of food in the United States depends on honey bees and other pollinators. But honey bee populations have suffered significant declines in recent years.

NRCS is working with landowners in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to make bee-friendly conservation improvements to their land, such as planting cover crops, wildflowers or native grasses and improving management of grazing lands. From June to September this six-state region is home to more than 70 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. These are critical months when bee colonies need abundant and diverse forage to store enough food for winter.

During the first two years of this targeted campaign, NRCS and landowners have boosted available food for honey bees on around 35,000 acres in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. NRCS expanded the effort into Montana this year because of the state’s prominent role in honey production.

Planting wildflowers, native grasses and cover crops like buckwheat, mustard, clover and sunflowers provides high value food for honey bees. Cover crops also increase soil nutrients, break pest cycles and increase organic matter in the soil. NRCS also works with landowners to ensure pasturelands and rangelands include a good variety of legumes, forbs and shrubs that also provide pollen and nectar.
The 2014 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) program provides funding for this work. NRCS accepts EQIP applications on a continuous basis. Landowners interested in participating should contact their local USDA service center to learn more.


Reaction on Trans-Pacific Partnership

The National Pork Producers Council expressed confidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiators concluded in Atlanta will benefit all sectors of the U.S. economy and will provide enormous new market opportunities for high-quality American pork products.

The TPP, initiated in late 2008, is a regional trade deal that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

“NPPC played an active role throughout the five-plus years of negotiations,” said association President Dr. Ron Prestage, “providing U.S. negotiators with key information on barriers we face in the 11 other TPP countries and offering guidance on outcomes that would ensure substantial new market access benefits for U.S. pork in those markets.”

Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, who said a final TPP agreement could be “the most important commercial opportunity ever for U.S. pork producers,” estimated that a good outcome for pork in the trade pact could increase U.S. pork exports over time exponentially and help create more than 10,000 U.S. jobs tied to those exports. Last year, the U.S. pork industry shipped about $4.5 billion of products to the 11 TPP nations.

U.S. trade analysts concluded that a TPP agreement that achieves the goals set by Congress and the Obama administration should help level the playing field for U.S. exports in a region that is the fastest growing in the world but where tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. goods are significant. It also should ensure that U.S. products are competitive in the region vis-à-vis products from non-TPP countries.

Past U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs), which have substantially reduced or eliminated trade barriers, demonstrate the importance to the U.S. pork industry of opening foreign markets, Prestage pointed out. Those deals have increased U.S. pork exports by 1,550 percent in value and 1,268 percent in volume since 1989 – the year the United States began using bilateral and regional trade agreements to open foreign markets – and now are valued at nearly $6.7 billion.

Last year, exports represented more than a quarter of total U.S. pork production and added more than $62 to the price pork producers received for each hog marketed. They also helped generate an estimated 110,000 pork-related U.S. jobs. The United States now exports more pork to its 20 FTA partners than to the rest of the world combined.

“We look forward to reviewing the full text of the TPP agreement and the schedules of market access concessions as soon as possible,” said Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “We are reserving final judgment on the package until then.”

While the recently concluded agreement should be a boon to U.S. exporters to the region, the TPP has the potential to provide even greater trade benefits if and when it is opened to additional countries, such as The Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, all of which have expressed interest in joining the Pacific Rim trade bloc.


The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council noted the conclusion today of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and thanked the U.S. negotiators for their work. NMPF and USDEC leadership and staff have attended the talks in Atlanta, which kicked off with a chief negotiators meeting on September 26 before shifting into a Ministerial on September 30. Both organizations have been providing input and guidance to negotiators throughout the duration of the regional trade pact.

The organizations expressed deep appreciation to the numerous members of Congress who have conveyed the importance of a successful dairy market access outcome during the years of negotiation, but in particular, during the closing negotiations.