June Legislative Update
June 16, 2014

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Nunes Holds Hearing on U.S. Agriculture Exports

On June 11, the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Advancing the U.S. Trade Agenda: Benefits of Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Export.”  The hearing focused on the benefits of U.S. agricultural trade to the U.S. economy and challenges foreign tariff and non-tariff barriers present to this industry.   The hearing also examined how current and future trade negotiations and other efforts can reduce those barriers.  Witnesses included Dermot Hayes, Professor, Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness, Iowa State University; Bob McCan, President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Andrei Mikhalevsky, President and CEO, California Dairies Inc.; Ryan Turner, President, Westside Trading Company; and Terence Stewart, Managing Partner, Stewart and Stewart.

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) opened the hearing by noting that the United States is the world’s leading agriculture exporter and that agriculture exports benefit both rural and urban America.  He highlighted the existence of tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture products that must be eliminated.  In the case of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Chairman Nunes expressed frustration with Japan’s and Canada’s level of ambition on agricultural tariff reductions stating, “{i}f any countries insist on retaining tariffs, then we must complete the negotiations without them and allow them to rejoin when they can commit to full tariff elimination.”  To this end, Chairman Nunes said that passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) was needed to strengthen the U.S. negotiating position and called on the Administration to focus on passing TPA before completing TPP. 

Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Charles Rangel (D-NY) also noted that many markets are protected or closed to U.S. farm, ranch and dairy products and that trade agreements are a means of opening those markets.  He also criticized the practice by some countries of implementing “bogus food safety laws” that are in fact intended to keep out U.S. products.  He noted, however, that the U.S. food safety regime promotes quality, and that there needs to be a balance to preserve legitimate food safety measures.  On TPP, Ranking Member Rangel cautioned that attention should “be focused on ensuring an outcome that Congress can support”  and dismissed the argument that Japan and other trading partners “won’t get serious until TPA is in place.”

For additional information about the hearing, including copies of witness testimony, click here.  To obtain copies of opening remarks, click here for Chairman Nunes, and here for Ranking Member Rangel.