Senate Agriculture Committee Leadership Announces First Farm Bill Field Hearing in Kansas

January 25, 2017, WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, announced the Committee will hold its first field hearing of the 115th Congress in Manhattan, Kan., on the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.

“It’s time to get to work on another Farm Bill, and we’re heading straight to the heartland to talk directly to producers,” said Chairman Roberts. “I can’t think of a more appropriate venue to hold this hearing than Manhattan, Kan., the home of Kansas State University, the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

“Our producers have had time to employ the programs in the current Farm Bill, and they have a lot to say. We need clear direction on what is working and what is not working in farm country, and we will be listening to see what needs to be adjusted. 

“As I said at the beginning of the 114th Congress, I will put farmers and ranchers first in the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

“As we begin to have discussions about the next Farm Bill, we will need input from farmers and families all across the country,” said Ranking Member Stabenow. “I am looking forward to this first field hearing in Chairman Roberts’ home state to hear directly from producers and others who care about rural America so we can craft a bill that continues to strengthen American agriculture as well as small towns and rural communities.”

The hearing will feature testimony from a variety of agricultural producers, who will be announced shortly.

Title:   Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas

Date:  Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time:  TBA

Place:  McCain Auditorium, Kansas State University, 1501 Goldstein Circle, Manhattan, Kan. 66506

The hearing will be webcast live at www.ag.senate.gov.

Administration Takes Action to Address European Union’s Unfair Trade Practices against U.S. Beef Industry

Obama Administration takes first steps toward reinstating trade action against EU, scheduling a public hearing and seeking public comments on U.S. beef industry’s request

U.S. beef industry exports average $6 billion per year, producing an estimated $7.6 billion in economic activity and supporting 50,000 jobs nationwide

Washington, D.C. – The Obama Administration announced today that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is taking action against the European Union’s (EU) unfair trade practices that discriminate against U.S. beef imports.  Acting on the request of the U.S. beef industry, USTR has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the EU’s ban on most U.S. beef products.  The EU’s ban on U.S. beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers.  If the trade action resumes, the United States would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the United States.  USTR is particularly interested in comments addressed to the possible effects of reinstatement on U.S. consumers and small- or medium-sized businesses.

“The WTO determined that the European Union’s ban on U.S. beef imports violates its international trade obligations,” said Ambassador Froman. “The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it’s now time to take action. Today’s action holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the Commission to come back to the table to ensure that American ranchers have access to Europe’s market and that European consumers have better access to high-quality U.S. beef.”

In 1998, the EU lost a case at the WTO for banning American beef. In 2009, the U.S. negotiated an agreement to allow a modest degree of market access for specially-produced beef that meets the EU’s standards, but that agreement has not worked as intended. The European Commission had argued that this issue should be resolved through T-TIP. However, given that European officials decided after their trade minister’s meeting in September not to complete T-TIP this year, now is the time to take action.

The U.S. beef industry exports an average $6 billion per year. These exports produce an estimated $7.6 billion in economic activity and support 50,000 jobs nationwide. The American beef industry is essential to the overall strength of the nation’s economy, and to rural communities seeking ways to access new customers in foreign markets.

“American ranchers raise some of the best beef on the planet, but restrictive European Union policies continue to deny EU consumers access to U.S. beef at affordable prices. For several years we have been asking the EU to fix an agreement that is clearly broken, despite its original promise to provide a favorable market for U.S. beef,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The U.S. beef sector is vital to our economy. U.S. beef and beef product exports average $6 billion per year, producing an estimated $7.6 billion in annual economic activity and supporting nearly 50,000 jobs nationwide. The industry is essential to the overall strength of the nation’s economy, and to rural communities seeking ways to access new customers in foreign markets.

An interagency committee of trade experts and economists will participate in the hearing and review public comments on the particular products and EU member States that may be subject to the imposition of additional duties, with the goal of resolving this dispute. Complete information on the submission of comments is set forth in a Federal Register Notice that is published today on the USTR website (www.ustr.gov) and will be available shortly on the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.regulations.gov).

“There is no doubt that American beef products are safe. The 20 year EU ban has been in effect far too long. It is not based on fact and should be lifted,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson. “The beef industry is an important contributor to our nation’s economy, especially rural economy. This announcement is welcome news for America’s beef producers.”

“The EU, our largest trading partner, unfortunately maintains numerous unscientific policies focused on protecting European agriculture producers from competition with American producers rather than promoting food safety,” said Representative Adrian Smith, member of the House Ways and Means Committee and Chair of the Modern Agriculture Caucus. “It also closes off many more markets to U.S. producers in countries around the world which defer to the EU on these regulatory issues. I commend USTR for moving forward on this enforcement action, and I will continue to push the EU to adopt scientific regulations which will enhance trade and food security across the globe.”

Additional Background Information

The beef industry’s request is based on a 1998 WTO ruling in the EU beef dispute that the European ban on the import of meat and meat products from animals treated with certain hormones was not supported by scientific evidence and thus violated WTO obligations.  In 1999, the WTO authorized the United States to impose additional tariffs on EU products with a total annual trade value of $116.8 million. Consistent with this authorization, the United States imposed additional duties on products from certain EU member States.

In 2008, the WTO confirmed that the United States has a continuing right to impose trade measures until the EU beef dispute is resolved. In January 2009, USTR announced a decision to change the products subject to additional duties, consistent with the list of products approved by the WTO in 1999.  USTR delayed the decision, however, to permit further negotiations with the EU to resolve the dispute.

In May 2009, the United States and the EU signed an MOU under which the EU agreed to create a new duty-free quota for imports of specially-produced beef.  Since 2009, in exchange for the elimination of increased U.S. tariffs on EU imports, the MOU has provided an opportunity for U.S. producers to export additional beef to the EU market, as intended by the parties.  However, in recent years the U.S. beef industry has been prevented from gaining the intended benefits from the MOU because of increased imports under the duty-free quota from non-U.S. suppliers.

REMARKS ON BEHALF OF U.S. BEEF PRODUCERS

“We fully support USTR’s decision to use the means available to it under U.S. law to defend the interests of the U.S. beef industry … The U.S. beef industry has supported our government’s efforts to find a commercially feasible way for us to participate in the EU market. The 2009 agreement initially appeared to represent a step in that direction, but unfortunately it has not lived up to the industry’s expectations. Under the circumstances, we cannot agree to stand by as our competitors take an ever-expanding share of a quota that was specifically created to compensate the United States.”— Phillip Seng, President and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation

“Our temporary agreement with the E.U. was meant to be an opportunity to build a bridge of trust between U.S. beef producers and E.U. consumers, and to compensate the United States for the losses we have suffered as a result of the E.U.’s hormone ban. The E.U. has violated the spirit of that agreement and caused U.S. beef exports to become a minority interest in a quota meant to compensate U.S. beef producers.”— Tracy Brunner, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

“It is imperative that the EU honor its original agreement with the U.S. We will continue to work with the U.S. government to ensure fair access for our products and support today’s move to reinstate tariffs.”— Barry Carpenter, President and CEO of the Meat Institute

EPA USACE Withdraw Interpretive Rule

January 29, 2015 – On March 25, 2014, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Army signed an interpretive rule titled, “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Army Interpretive Rule Regarding the Applicability of Clean Water Act Section 404(f)(l)(A).”  Effective immediately, the agencies hereby withdraw this interpretive rule as Congress directed in Section 112 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriation Act, 2015, Public Law No. 113-235. The Memorandum of Understanding signed on March 24, 2014, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U. S. Department of the Army and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concerning the interpretive rule, is also hereby withdrawn.

Kenneth J. Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary (Civil Works), U.S. Department of the Army, January 29, 2015

MEMORANDUM WITHDRAWING EPA USACE INTERPRETIVE RULE

U.S. Ag Producers Urge Feds to Bring Rapid End to West Coast Ports Slowdown

January 29, 2015 – 92 undersigned food, agricultural and allied groups express their deep disappointment in the failure to resolve an ongoing labor dispute that has resulted in a severe slowdown of terminal activity at five west coast ports. This regrettable situation is having a severe impact on our ability to export agricultural and food products to many of our main export markets. Inevitably, these overseas customers will look to other sources for their supply of these goods. Similar to what we encountered after ill-advised export embargoes in the past, once lost, a foreign customer can be difficult to recapture. Additionally, the dispute is affecting imports from counter-seasonal production areas important for serving U.S. consumers.

A more immediate problem, however, is the effect the drastic reduction in containers being loaded is having on perishable commodities. Those goods are spoiling and being destroyed before they can be shipped or are being diverted to the domestic market at severe discounts. This represents an unconscionable waste of food products and a serious loss in revenue for U.S. producers.

The United States is the largest exporter of food and agricultural commodities in the world. Our sectors, as much as any in the economy, have taken full advantage of trade agreements negotiated over the past two decades to provide farmers, ranchers and other American businesses new opportunities for their output. Exports of agricultural products have grown from $46 million in 1994 to $144 billion in 2013 (the last full year for which data are available), and much of that growth has been to Asian markets, which are most directly affected by the ports slowdown.

The increase in food and agriculture products exported and imported has been extremely beneficial to the terminals and to the thousands of workers that handle shipments. The apparent indifference by parties in the dispute to the impact the slowdown is having on our sectors is disturbing.

We urge the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to take into account the impact this dispute is having on many of their fellow Americans and to resolve their differences as quickly as possible. We also urge the federal government to consider all available remedies to bring this dispute to a rapid end. The interests and welfare of more than just the union and the terminals are at stake.

Agribusiness Council of Indiana

Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) Almond Hullers & Processors Association American Apparel & Footwear Association American Farm Bureau Federation

American Feed Industry Association

American Frozen Food Institute

American Malting Barley Association, Inc. American Potato Trade Alliance

American Pulse Association American Seed Trade Association American Soybean Association Association of American Railroads Association of California Egg Farmers Basic American Foods

CALAMCO

California Cherry Export Association California Dried Plum Board California Farm Bureau

California Fresh Fruit Association California Grain and Feed Association California League of Food Processors California Pear Growers

California Rice Commission California Seed Association California Walnut Commission California Warehouse Association Corn Refiners Association CropLife America

Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. Farmers’ Rice Cooperative Furniture Shippers Association Grocery Manufacturers Association Idaho Potato Commission

Idahoan Foods

International Dairy Foods Association

J.R. Simplot Company

Juice Products Association

Michigan Agri-Business Association

Michigan Bean Shippers

Midwest Food Processors Association National Association of Wheat Growers National Barley Growers Association National Cattlemen’s Beef Association National Chicken Council

National Confectioners Association National Corn Growers Association National Council of Farmer Cooperatives National Fisheries Institute

National Grain and Feed Association National Milk Producers Federation National Oilseed Processors Association National Pork Producers Council National Potato Council

National Renderers Association National Sorghum Producers National Sunflower Association National Turkey Federation Naturipe Farms

North American Blueberry Council

North American Equipment Dealers Association North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) North American Meat Institute

Northarvest Bean Growers Association

Northwest Horticultural Council

Ohio AgriBusiness Association

Oregon Potato Commission

Pacific Egg and Poultry Association

Pet Food Institute

Produce Marketing Association

Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Sunmaid Growers of California

Sunsweet Growers Inc. The Fertilizer Institute U.S. Apple Association

U.S. Apple Export Council U.S. Dairy Export Council U.S. Grains Council

U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. U.S. Soybean Export Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

United Fresh Produce Association United States Meat Export Federation US Canola Association

US Dry Bean Council

USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council

USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

USA Rice Federation

Washington State Potato Commission

Western Growers Association

Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association