Trade deals, foreign market access debated in US Senate farm bill hearing – Colorado Newslin

WASHINGTON – In the first session of the new congressional session, the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Food and Forestry Committee met Wednesday to hear topics related to commercial and horticultural crops in the upcoming farm bill.

Legislators have prioritized enforcing the country’s agricultural trade agreements, expanding access to international markets and supporting underserved producers.

“The success of our agricultural economy requires continued investments in markets and opportunities for farmers,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat and committee chair. “The farm bill will help farmers put food on the table here and around the world.”

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The farm bill is “a multi-year piece of legislation that governs the agriculture and food programs,” he says. Congressional Research Service.

The law provides funding for federal crop insurance, SNAP benefits, international food aid and agricultural resource protection, among other programs. The bill is renewed every five years, and includes mandatory spending consistent with previous farm bills.

Current baseline spending for the 2023 farm bill is about $648 billion over the next five years.

In the final Farm Bill, proposed spending under the horticultural title was approximately $1 billion over five years, and proposed spending under the commercial title was approximately $1.375 billion over five years.

In the year Stabenow credited programs under both headings for achieving a record $191 billion in U.S. agricultural exports by 2022 amid the Ukraine war and supply chain challenges.

“These titles represent the breadth of American agriculture,” Stabenow said. “Supporting our specialty crop and organic farmers, strengthening our local food systems, building new markets for all our goods and products, and delivering critical food aid around the world.”

A mixed picture on business

The Senate committee received mixed information from Agriculture Department officials about the state of US agricultural trade.

Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Secretary Alexis Taylor said last year’s economic activity was driven by strong agricultural exports, which saw a 14% increase over the previous year. She said that 1 million citizens were supported by the agricultural export industry last year.

Yet despite these high numbers and underreporting of farm income, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Director Jenny Lester Moffitt points out that 89% of US farmers are supplementing their income with off-farm activities.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen the challenges farmers and ranchers face, especially finding markets to capture their fair share of food dollars.”

The secretary added that strengthening local food production is an ongoing priority for the farm bill and the broader USDA.

She highlighted her work. Eastern Market in Detroit And one Alabama Farm to School Initiative Combining state and federal funding to build local food systems.

“Using resources to support better and more competitive markets for our farmers, ranchers and consumers benefits our nation’s economy, our nation’s food system and our environment,” Moffitt said.

Removal of trade barriers

During the hearing, a bipartisan group of senators highlighted problems with trade barriers, including Mexico’s ban on genetically modified corn.

In the year In December 2020, the President of Mexico issued a decree calling for the elimination of GMO corn from human consumption nationwide by 2024.

Ninety percent American corn is grown with GMO seedsAnd Mexico is the largest importer of US corn, including 27 percent of US exports.

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roger Marshall of Kansas, John Tune of South Dakota and Deb Fischer of Nebraska have expressed concern over the ban. They called on the USDA to decide to reject Mexico’s position and provide legal remedies under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“Our farmers feel this administration is putting workers ahead of the farmers in the Mexico meeting,” Marshall said. “What are we waiting for to trigger this mechanism? I’m tired of talking about it. We think it’s time for action.”

In response, Taylor said the USDA is conducting “urgent negotiations” with Mexico, and the department will ensure “science-based rights” for GMO corn exports.

Colorado farmers were eager to plant and grow hemp…unfortunately, burdensome testing requirements and a lack of processing facilities kept people across the country from growing interest in this versatile crop.

– Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota’s Tina Smith spoke out against the challenge of geo-indicators, which are barriers to dairy exports to the European Union.

A geo-indicator on food is a name that reflects the place of origin, such as Asiago or Parmesan cheese. American farmers cannot label an exported product as “Parmesan cheese,” for example, because it is not from Parma, Italy.

Taylor is determined to fight for the rights of America’s dairy farmers in the face of these restrictions. She said the department is negotiating with the World Trade Organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the European Union to reduce restrictions on the dairy industry.

“I haven’t seen feta on a map yet,” Taylor said. “We are working to ensure that intellectual property rights are respected, but that the generic names we use do not hinder our business.”

Various international markets

Several committee members cited national security interests in developing new markets for US agricultural products, particularly international competition and disputes over biotechnology.

“I am concerned that this administration is not focused on expanding market access for American agricultural products,” Thune said.

According to Taylor, the USDA believes that Southeast Asia is a target sector for exports, and noted that the region has the highest economic growth in the world. She added that Vietnam will have more than five million middle-income families in the next five years.

“We have an opportunity today and early to create consumers, lifelong consumers of American agricultural products,” Taylor said. She added that continued work in the Indo-Pacific Economic Partnership will be key to maximizing opportunities.

Taylor noted that Africa is a growing market for U.S. agricultural products and that Kenya is an “exciting market” as U.S. technical assistance continues on the African Continental Free Trade Act.

Helping small farmers

Other committee members also pointed to challenges in the past agriculture bill for small and underrepresented farmers to take advantage of USDA programs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the USDA and lawmakers need to fix the local agricultural market program.

“I’ve heard concerns from organizations in Ohio about the application process,” Brown said. “The program can be very difficult to reach for underserved and underserved communities. I know we can fix that.

The 2018 Farm Bill created the Horticulture Title Program, which combines and expands the existing USDA Farmers Market, Local Food Marketing and Value-Added Processing Grant programs. In the 2018 law, $50 million is allocated for annual mandatory spending.

Taylor in 2011. By 2023, he responded, the application process would be more streamlined. The director added that the USDA works in collaboration with universities and producers to prepare books that help the community to find the resources.

Senator Michael Bennett, Democrat of Colorado, asked Moffitt about the growing state of the hemp industry and steps to guide farmers through the process of starting operations.

“Farmers in Colorado were eager to plant and grow,” Bennett said. Unfortunately, stringent testing requirements and a lack of processing facilities have hindered the potential of this versatile crop that people across the country want to grow.

Moffitt USDA has taken steps to streamline and simplify the regulatory process for beginning hemp producers and released its first National Hemp Report last week to provide market information to producers.

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