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Hoeven Working on Inclusion of Basis in Trade Assistance
North Dakota Ag Connection - 06/17/2019

At a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator John Hoeven urged officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to advance key priorities for agriculture producers in North Dakota, including:

- Accounting for the increase in basis in the $16 billion of agriculture assistance. Hoeven stressed that the disruption in foreign market access impacts some regions and producers more heavily, like soybean growers in North Dakota, and the assistance should account for these increased costs.

- Finalizing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and negotiations with Japan as soon as possible. Securing these trade agreements will both give an important boost to the farm economy and put increased pressure on China to come to an agreement.

Officials at the hearing included USDA Chief Economist Dr. Robert Johansson, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney and USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud.

"Our soybean producers put in a lot of work to develop trade relations in China, and in a normal year, North Dakota would send about $1.5 billion worth of soybeans to China. Losing that access means farmers face real costs as they work to find new customers, which should be reflected in the trade assistance," Hoeven said. "At the same time, we need China to come to the table and agree to a deal. We create momentum in these trade efforts one step at a time, and securing our other agreements, like the USMCA and a deal with Japan, amps up the pressure on China. This is especially true as we make progress with Japan, which is a tremendous economic power in the Pacific Rim. That's what will deliver the foreign market access our farmers and ranchers need."

Last week's hearing came as part of Hoeven's efforts to ensure the agriculture assistance serves producers as effectively as possible. To this end, the senator recently held roundtables in North Dakota to gather input from commodity groups, livestock producers and agriculture lenders to bring back to USDA. Prior to this, Hoeven, who serves as chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, worked with the administration to secure the assistance, which includes:

- $14.5 Billion in Market Facilitation Program Payments to producers. All Title I commodities will be covered, including soybeans, wheat, corn, canola and others.

- $1.4 Billion in Farm Purchases of surplus commodities like fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, poultry and milk for food pantries, school nutrition programs and other organizations.

- $100 Million in Agriculture Trade Promotion to help develop new markets for U.S. agriculture goods.

Hoeven also continues pressing the administration to make progress in finalizing trade agreements and to get the USMCA passed through both the House and the Senate. Recent progress includes:

- U.S. Beef Imports to Japan -- Japan recently agreed to open its markets to U.S. cattle products, regardless of age. USDA estimates this will increase U.S. beef exports by up to $200 million each year, and it is an important step as the administration works to negotiate a trade agreement with Japan.

- Removal of the Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs -- Last month, the administration reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to completely lift the tariffs on steel and aluminum, without imposing quotas. Under the agreement, Mexico and Canada lifted retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture products. Lifting the steel and aluminum tariffs is not only important for manufacturers and agriculture producers, but helps clear the way for the USMCA to move in Congress.

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