Despite a pledge in early 2020 to do so, China has not shortened the average time — more than two years — that it takes to decide whether to approve agricultural biotechnology products for import, said the Biden administration in an annual review. The slow-moving process disrupts U.S. farm exports and the commercialization of new strains of corn, soybeans, canola, and alfalfa, said the report from the U.S. trade representative's office (USTR).
The U.S. agricultural trade deficit, forecast at a record $30.5 billion this fiscal year, will narrow in the near term as exchange rates improve and trading partners gain economic strength, said the Agriculture Department in its 10-year agricultural baseline.
During a sometimes prickly House hearing on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged lawmakers to buckle down and write a farm bill that does not cut SNAP or climate funds. Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee said the Biden administration has overlooked the needs of the large-scale farmers who produce the bulk of U.S. crops and livestock.
Rebel attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea are disrupting grain shipments from Europe, Ukraine, and Russia to customers in East Africa and Asia, with the potential to drive up food costs in import-dependent countries, said a think tank blog on Wednesday. “While this worst-case scenario for the Red Sea crisis is still unlikely, the current disruption is a reminder of the fragility of supply chains and the need for countries to be flexible in sourcing food when disruptions occur.”
U.S. food and ag exports are concentrated in four markets that generate nearly $6 of every $10 in sales, said two senior U.S. ag trade officials on Thursday. To expand sales volume, they said at a trade group meeting, new customers must be developed in countries that have been off the export radar in the past.
U.S. farm exports will be the smallest in four years due to lower prices for wheat, corn, and cotton, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. China would remain the No. 1 customer for food and ag products, with Mexico a close second.
The government will provide up to $300 million for the first year of a new program to build food and ag export sales in nontraditional markets, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. The USDA has committed $1.2 billion over five years for the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) after the second year in a row of declining ag exports.
The Agriculture Department will counter a decline in farm exports by seeking sales in new markets, including non-traditional destinations, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. Vilsack announced a calendar of six agricultural trade missions for 2024 and the opening of a comment period on how to allot $1.3 billion in the new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program.
The United States ran a record agricultural trade deficit of $16.6 billion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, said a USDA database. The deficit was smaller than the forecast of $19 billion but fiscal 2023 was the third deficit in the last five years.
The government should replace outdated sugar import rules that guarantee higher revenue to domestic growers and drive up food costs, said the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday. “The program creates higher sugar prices, which cost consumers more than producers benefit, at an annual cost to the economy of around $1 billion,” it said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack should tap a USDA reserve fund to expand international food aid and export promotion programs, said the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee in a letter released on Wednesday.
Putting its warnings into action, the Biden administration officially accused Mexico on Thursday of violating North American trade rules by prohibiting imports of genetically modified white corn used in making tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet. Mexico, the birthplace of corn and a top U.S. trade partner, said it was ready to defend its ban before a USMCA dispute panel.
China wrongly imposed retaliatory tariffs against U.S. products including pork, wine, and fruits and nuts in response to Trump-era tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, said a WTO dispute panel on Wednesday. The trade war levies were an additional 25 percent on pork and an additional 15 percent on fruits and derived products.
As a sign of partnership, India will remove retaliatory tariffs on U.S. apples, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, and walnuts, said U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai on Thursday, The decision was announced as part of a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington.
After setting a record last year, U.S. farm exports will shrink 8 percent this year, due to tightening economic conditions worldwide and lower commodity prices, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. The $15.4 billion decline in sales would be most pronounced for corn, cotton, beef, and soybeans.
Canada and the United States are a global example of cross-border trade in food and agriculture products, forecast to exceed $65 billion this year. But Arun Alexander, Canada's deputy ambassador in Washington, said Tuesday "we are concerned about the real world consequences" of changing the rules on the voluntary "Product of USA" label.
The boom in production of renewable diesel fuel has pushed U.S. soybean oil prices so high the commodity is uncompetitive on the world market, said USDA analysts on Tuesday. Drought in Argentina, the world's leading soyoil exporter, also will be a major factor in the lowest volume of soyoil imports worldwide in five years.
If the United States takes its complaint against Mexico's ban on imports of GMO white corn to a USMCA panel, it could take 155 days — until late December or even January — for a final resolution, although a U.S. victory is likely, said three Ohio State University analysts.