American agriculture is facing numerous challenges and unfortunately, an overwhelming share is being shouldered by U.S. pork producers like myself. However, the news earlier this week of a signed trade deal with Japan is significant and hopefully a catalyst for similar agreements in other countries.

Japan is the largest value market and the second largest volume market for U.S. pork exports. Unfortunately, Japan’s trade agreements at the beginning of this year with the European Union and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership countries were causing an erosion of U.S. pork market share in that country.

Because of these agreements, U.S. pork producers were at a significant disadvantage in one of our top markets because of unequal market access. This week’s agreement, once implemented, will firmly place the U.S. on a level playing field with its international competitors, a positive development for enabling greater benefits to both U.S. and Japanese consumers.

The economic benefits of this trade agreement are substantial. U.S. pork exports to Japan support 13,100 U.S. jobs. Additionally, Dr. Dermot Hayes, an economist at Iowa State University, estimates exports to Japan could grow from $1.6 billion in 2018 to more than $2.2 billion over the next 15 years under market access terms included in the agreement. 

U.S. pork producers and other farmers face a number of challenges, including export market uncertainties, flooding and other unpredictable weather. We appreciate the Trump administration’s commitment to securing a trade agreement with Japan. Once implemented, this will ensure that the affordable, wholesome and nutritious U.S. pork products Japanese consumers love so much are available.

Trade is a vital part of the U.S. pork industry, since we export more than 25 percent of total production to foreign markets. While U.S. pork producers are cheering this week’s news, there’s more work left to do. We urge swift Congressional ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, which preserves zero-tariff pork trade in North America, and resolution of trade disputes with China that will enable U.S. pork producers to capitalize on an unprecedented sales opportunity with the world’s largest pork-consuming nation. U.S. pork is also seeking improved market access in growth markets such as Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Brazil and Jamaica. Let’s keep up this great momentum and get to work!

David Herring is the president of the National Pork Producers Council. 

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