ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- U.S. agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot in our balance of trade with the rest of the world. In July, we sold $10.4 billion in ag products to foreign buyers. That was slightly less than June but still left us with a positive balance of trade of $718 million for the month. So far in the current fiscal year, which ends at the end of September, we have sold over $119.7 billion worth of agricultural products overseas while importing $99.86 billion worth of foreign ag products. That gives us a cumulative positive balance of trade of $19.85 billion for the year.
The battle over whether products like soy, almond and rice drinks should be able to use the term milk continues. The dairy industry has been after the Food and Drug Administration to follow the laws and not allow those commodities to use milk on their labels since the product doesn't come from hooved animals as the regulations require. But the FDA continues to drag its feet and not rule on the issue so the dairy industry is trying another route-Congress. The industry is pushing the Dairy Pride Act which seeks to have Congress rule that milk comes from animals and not plants. There is no indication that Congress is ready to tackle the issue any faster than the FDA.
Two rounds of talks are in the books regarding attempts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and so far the talks have allowed the host country to lay out its agenda. In Mexico last week, Mexican trade officials let it be known their goal is to boost their agricultural exports, mainly poultry, eggs and dairy products. To do that, they said they will push to end "product exceptions" for those products that they feel benefits both the United States and Canada in the current agreement. The third round of talks will be later this month in Canada with a probable wrap-up session next month back in the United States. All sides want to finish their talks on time so a rewrite of NAFTA can be finished by early next year, before elections in both Mexico and the United States.
It'll be weeks, maybe months, before all the damage from the hurricanes of the past couple of weeks can be evaluated. But Texas officials are worried that thousands of cattle may have drowned in the flood waters that covered about one fourth of all Texas pasture land. Economists at Texas A & M University say Hurricane Ike in 2008 cost Texas cattlemen about $13.3 billion in lost cattle and another $23.3 million in lost fences, hay and other farm equipment. And they say Harvey will probably end up costing them a lot more than that. On the crop side, big losses are expected there as well. The Food and Drug Administration late last week issued a warning that said if the edible portion of a crop was standing in floodwaters, it should be considered adulterated and not enter the human food chain. The notice added that such crops, where the edible portion came into contact with floodwaters, need to be destroyed. Farmers and farm groups are scrambling to get more details on just what that warning all involves.