Our neighbors in Missouri were the latest to invite me to a Farm Bill listening tour in their rural communities. Show Me State producers shared their visions for the Farm Bill, and they mirrored what I heard in the other 16 states I visited. Updated risk management tools continue to be the top priority, but it is closely followed by the need for increased international market access.
Farmers remain concerned that Washington is not focused on opening new overseas markets for our agricultural products. They have reason to feel this way. Trade has not been a priority for this administration. For only the third time in 55 years we’re expected to have a trade deficit in agriculture. No new trade deals have been signed since the president took office and, even more troubling, none are under negotiation.
As the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I joined my Democrat counterpart, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, to urge the administration to do more to break down trade barriers and open new markets for our agriculture producers.
We called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to use existing authorities to support American farmers by making investments in trade promotion. I am pleased that, in response to our request, the secretary announced a new $1.3 billion investment aimed at enabling exporters to break into new markets and increase our share in growth markets.
I want to be clear, however, that this in no way reduces the need for a robust investment in the Farm Bill’s trade title. The programs authorized by the Farm Bill aid exporters in accessing, expanding and creating markets for U.S. agricultural products and add billions to the value of American agriculture exports in the process.
New trade deals will go a long way to help our state’s economy. In 2021, Arkansas’s agricultural exports totaled over $3.8 billion. Natural State producers led exporters of rice in 2021, and were the third highest exporter of cotton and chicken. The global marketplace is clearly hungry for the products grown by Arkansas family farmers.
Protecting existing markets is equally as important as opening new ones because we operate in a global economy and our trading partners don’t always live up to our agreements.
Our family farmers are the ones who pay when countries like China use the avian flu as an excuse to block access to virtually all U.S. poultry products or when India heavily subsidizes its domestic rice so it can sell for less on the international market than American farmers can.
Even our neighbors continue to play games at the expense of our farmers. Canada’s allocations of dairy tariff-rate quotas for domestic processors prevents U.S. farmers from having true market access and Mexico’s policies blocking biotech corn are not grounded in science and are detrimental to our producers.
The administration has stepped up efforts to enforce our agreements as of late, but it must continue to lean on our trading partners to ensure they adhere to the terms of our deals.
And while we aim to resolve these trade disputes, we must continue to do more to increase our farmers access to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers that exist outside of our borders. A Farm Bill with a strong focus on trade can enable us to reach those customers and help our family farmers thrive.