Nov 19, 2018
BALTIMORE, MD -- Last week, USA Rice and 80 other agricultural trade associations met here for the U.S Agricultural Export Development Council (USAEDC) Annual Workshop. USAEDC is a non-profit, private sector trade association that represents the groups, including USA Rice, that receive funding from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for promotion of agricultural products overseas. This year’s two-day event boasted a full schedule of speakers and breakout sessions which focused on the Farm Bill, mid-term election results, the toll of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture, and an update on the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program.
Political analyst Charlie Cook started things off with a candid summary of the importance of mid-term elections and how they directly correlate to the government’s response to issues facing U.S. agriculture.
FAS Administrator Ken Isley gave the keynote address and discussed an agency reorganization underway designed to better align the mission of FAS with its constituents. USDA staff also provided an update on the ATP program, a 200 million dollar trade mitigation package aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. During the submission period, 71 organizations requested funding under this new program and the requests were more than three times larger than the amount of available funds. USDA is currently reviewing proposals and expects to have funding decisions completed by January 8, 2019.
Jason Hafemeister, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, reported that U.S. agriculture’s top export markets are also those markets that have imposed retaliatory duties on U.S. goods in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. For example, seventy-two percent of the goods Mexico has slapped with retaliatory tariffs are agricultural exports, and 22 percent of all U.S. exports subject to retaliatory tariffs in China are in the agriculture sector. The negative effects caused by agriculture tariffs were significant enough to justify the implementation of the ATP program.
As part of a panel titled, “Maximizing Opportunities in Brexit,” USA Rice COO Bob Cummings spoke about the current market access challenges faced by U.S.-grown rice in the EU with high tariffs, duty free access for only a small amount of U.S. rice, and favorable treatment provided to other origins. The upcoming free trade agreement negotiations with the EU and the UK provide an opportunity for U.S. rice to gain a larger market share in what was once a top market for U.S. rice.
The event culminated with a standing ovation of gratitude to Annie Durbin, who has served in the role of Executive Director for USAEDC since 2000 and is retiring at the end of 2018.
“The USAEDC Workshop is always a great opportunity for us to meet with our partners in FAS and fellow cooperators to discuss challenges and opportunities in international markets. I was happy to be able to publicly honor Annie who has strengthened the public/private partnership with FAS/USDA and the bonds among the USAEDC members during her service as Executive Director,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward, who chaired USAEDC from 2012-2014.