U.S. ag groups ask for more trade reforms

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:00 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - USDA economists have worked all the numbers and they show a lot of money was sent to farmers last year helping them get through the Coronavirus pandemic. They found that when all the crop insurance indemnities, unemployment benefits and other payments were figured in, the government sent $57.7 billion to farms and farm households in 2020. The breakdown of the numbers show $35.2 billion went for direct pandemic relief, another 16.8 billion was for non-pandemic programs like trade war payments and $5.7 billion went out for crop insurance indemnity payments. Those payments accounted for about 38% of farm income last year. Previously the most the government had ever paid out in farm assistance payments was $10 billion. In 2019 government payments to farmers totaled $14.8 billion.

Milk cows across the country continue to do their job. In June national milk production in the 24 top milk producing states hit just over 18 billion pounds—up over 3% from last June. In Wisconsin June milk production was 2.64 billion pounds—also up 3% from a year ago. The main reason for our jump in production was output per cow. In June Wisconsin dairy cows averaged 2,070 pounds of milk—30 pounds per cow more than in June of 2020.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing earlier this week on the status of the one year old U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. And they had numerous issues to discuss. Leading the list were concerns about Canada’s inadequate implementation of new market access for U.S. dairy products, Mexico’s foot dragging on agricultural biotech approvals and the lack of a chief agriculture negotiator nominee. So far, our dairy dispute with Canada is the only case brought by the U.S. so far under the agreement’s procedures.

Meanwhile a group of U.S. agricultural groups is asking U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to be more aggressive when it comes to reforming the World Trade Organization. They want her to go after reforms that would focus more on market based and sustainable trade liberalization and provide a more effective and efficient dispute settlement system. They also said any outcome for change should not let agriculture’s long term goals be used as a trade-off for non-agricultural outcomes. WTO ministers will next meet in November.

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