U.S. agriculture ready to level international trade playing field
U.S. agricultural trade groups said they’re willing to give up some trade-distorting domestic supports and allow for greater access to U.S. markets, if developing countries — especially those with large agricultural product exports — are willing to do the same.
Agricultural representatives are headed to the World Trade Organization’s ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, this week to keep track of the agricultural trade debate.
“We’re really getting to a critical point,” said Christopher Shaffer, a farmer and chairman of the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee, at a press conference in Washington Monday. The progress of the WTO talks “will impact rural America down the road” with or without the U.S. agriculture’s involvement.
Other agricultural groups present at the news conference were the National Cotton Council, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Milk Producers Federation, American Sugar Alliance, USA Rice Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation.
Countries, such as Brazil and Argentina, are large exporters of grain. There’s concern that they will invoke a “developing country status” to give them more time to phase out their agricultural tariffs.
In recent years, American farmers have become more dependent on international trade. For example, one out of every five rows of corn is exported. Last year, the United States exported more than 47 million tons of bulk corn valued at $4.8 billion, the National Corn Growers Association said.
Other areas of concern for U.S. agricultural shippers are the continuation of state-supported farming and the reasonable tenure of loan repayment under the U.S. export credit guarantee program for developing country importers.
U.S. agricultural trade representatives rebuffed criticisms from some countries that the nation’s large food-aid program contributes to market distortions in developing regions. Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, called the inclusion of on food aid in the WTO trade talks “anti-humanitarian.”