Committee focuses on foreign trade barriers and small ag exporters

By Kristin Merony

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 - The increased use of non-tariff trade barriers, predominately sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, are trade weapons against American agriculture, according to Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade Chairman Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

“It is often said one of every four acres planted in the U.S. is planted for export markets, with exports accounting for 30 percent of farm income,” Tipton said in his opening remarks at the subcommittee hearing Wednesday. 

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Tipton said he believes that more can be done to harness “our nation's apparent comparative advantage in agricultural production by further expanding our access to foreign markets.”

“The breath of restraints is staggering and they reach into nearly every product grown or raised on America's farms,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark Critz, D-Pa. “The truth is that for many, the promises of free trade have never materialized.”

“America's farms face the prospect of having to compete with foreign imports without having access to those very markets,” Critz said.

Testifying on behalf of potato growers, Roger Mix said “all too often the application of SPS has resulted in reduced market access for the agricultural goods grown by America's family farmers who operate small businesses across the country.”

He stressed that as Mexico, Canada and other key trading partners seek to become participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the U.S. needs to be vigilant in using a process to increase their commitment to science-based resolutions of phystosanitary issues. 

Boyer Farms owner, James Boyer, added that “for the TPP to be a 21st century agreement, there must be a market access outcome similar to those that are in the Korean and Columbia free trade agreements and sanitary barriers must be eliminated.”

“The persistent use of unjustified import restrictions related to health or safety concerns, sometimes sincerely but also sometimes disingenuously, is one of the most serious constraints on U.S. exports,” said Allen F. Johnson & Associates Vice President Jason Hafemeister. 

“Technical agencies need to prioritize discouraging other countries from erecting unjustified barriers and challenging unjustified barriers when they are established,” Hafemeister continued.

President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Carl Shaffer agreed with the other panelists adding that the domestic infrastructure challenge poses “a significant barrier to competitive agricultural exporting” as well.    

“An efficient, reliable and export-oriented transportation system is necessary to get agricultural goods to foreign markets,” said Shaffer emphasizing the need for the U.S. to expand and invest in its ports to accommodate larger ships “keeping American agricultural exports competitive.”


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