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  • USDEC and other Ag groups release roadmap for free trade

    By Mark O'Keefe December 17, 2020

    Farmers For Free Trade coalition highlights the importance of global trade that eliminates tariffs and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.

    A coalition of agricultural organizations that includes the U.S. Dairy Export Council, National Milk Producers Federation and the American Farm Bureau Federation has released a trade-focused roadmap to help American agriculture compete and succeed.

    Global trade plays a key role in that success formula. 

    "We export 16% of everything that we produce," said USDEC Senior Vice President of Trade Policy Jaime Castaneda. "Without that market access, we (in the dairy industry) wouldn't have the opportunity to grow the way we have been growing."

    At a press conference this week, USDEC and other members of the Farmers For Free Trade coalition offered important policy recommendations, including:

    • Pursue trade agreements that eliminate tariffs and address technical barriers to agricultural trade.  
    • Safeguard generic cheese terms like feta and parmesan. 
    The recommendations captured in the roadmap come after months of planning and discussion. Last summer, town hall meetings were held in five states—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa—to gain input from the agricultural community. USDEC jointly hosted the Wisconsin event together with NMPF. Much of what was learned at those meetings was included in the final report released this week.


    To download a PDF copy of the report, click here or the image below. 


    "Bottom line: We need more market opportunities overseas," Castaneda said at a press conference where the report was released. Hear his comments below. 

    Castaneda also suggested that the U.S. agricultural industry be more vocal in going after new market opportunities. For example: new free trade agreements that benefit U.S. exports. 

    "We have not negotiated and passed a new agreement through Congress in many years," he said.  

    He said the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is an improvement over the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the last time the U.S. approved a brand new agreement it was negotiated by the Bush administration and passed in the Obama administration, illustrating the length of the deficit in U.S. trade deals with new partners. 

    Another person on the panel, Kentucky Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles, pointed out the important role that U.S. agriculture has in feeding the world. 

    "We are by far the safest, most abundant food supply system. We export $140 billion in agricultural goods each year. There are untold millions on this earth who depend on the American farmer to feed themselves. That is a point of pride. Even during the complications of COVID-19, which put stresses on our food supply system that have not been seen since World War II, there were no food shortages in our country," he said. 

    "If given a chance, the American farmer can compete in just about any market in the world," he says. 

    Town hall meetings 

    A series of town hall meetings last summer provided the foundation for the coalition's report. (Note: A summary of each town hall discussion is included in the final report.)

    At the Wisconsin event co-hosted by USDEC, panelists included:

    • Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. 
    • Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori Cheese.
    • Chad Vincent, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
    • Jeff Lyon, CEO of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. 

    At each town hall, the importance of global trade was emphasized. 


    The coalition, formed under the umbrella organization Farmers for Free Trade, includes USDEC, the National Milk Producers Federation, National Corn Growers Association, Corn Refiners Association, Iowa Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, and others.

    Mark O'Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council. 

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

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