Farm Bureau praises WTO ag deal, other uncertain

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman this week praised the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference for “a strong agreement on export competition and setting a new direction for agricultural trade negotiations.”

“Eliminating trade-distorting export subsidies and achieving disciplines on the use of export credits will lower agricultural trade barriers and strengthen U.S. agriculture’s ability to pursue market opportunities in international trade,” Stallman said. “The measures adopted on food aid also will support U.S. programs that continue to provide food assistance around the world.”

But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said he is “concerned that the agreement reached in Nairobi allows developing countries to continue to use export subsidies for transportation and marketing for another eight years, even though the United States has held the position that the authority of countries to offer these sorts of subsidies expired back in 2004.”

“We need to ensure that these kinds of export subsidies are no longer permitted to harm U.S. farmers and ranchers,” Conaway said. “The agreement reached in Nairobi at least assigns a definitive date to ending these subsidies. But, the success of this aspect of the agreement will ultimately be measured by its rigorous and full enforcement.”

Conaway also noted that the agreement acknowledges the reforms to domestic cotton policy made by the United States.

But he added, “While I appreciate the recognition of our efforts, I am disappointed that some acknowledgment was not made concerning the deeply harmful impacts that China and India’s domestic cotton policies are having upon cotton farmers around the world, including farmers here at home and in least developed countries to which there appears to be no end in sight.”

“I will continue to shine a bright light on the harmful, and in some cases illegal, trading practices of China, India, and other trading partners because they deny America’s farmers and ranchers the level playing field they have so often been promised and certainly deserve,” Conaway said.

U.S. Wheat Associates, the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, said in a release today that it is “very pleased with the recent decision by WTO members to eliminate agricultural export subsidies.”

“Certainly, eliminating export subsidy authority at once for developed countries and by the end of 2018 for developing countries is a major step forward for world wheat trade,” USW said.

But the group added, “USW is concerned, however, that the Nairobi ministerial also reauthorized developing and least developed countries’ use of processing and transport subsidies for agricultural products, an authority that had expired in 2004. While this reauthorization is limited and temporary, it is still a step backward for agricultural trade similar to the setback of the 2013 Bali declaration.”

USW also noted that “there were changes in language affecting food aid and export credits, but our negotiators successfully defended U.S. practices in those areas. “

“While further negotiations will take place on special safeguards and government food stockholding for developing and least developed countries, no commitment was made to continue the Doha Development Agenda as such, which we consider a positive outcome. It is long past time for countries to shelve the failed Doha negotiations and move on to more productive trade liberalization efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century.”

–The Hagstrom Report