China falls to third place as U.S. ag export market, USDA says

U.S. food and ag exports to China will fall by $6 billion this fiscal year in the biggest slump in sales since the Sino-U.S. trade war, forecast the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. Mexico and Canada will surpass China as the top customers, while the agricultural trade deficit will widen to $32 billion.

Senators tell administration to ‘play offense’ on trade

The Biden administration is sitting on its hands when it ought to be knocking down trade barriers and negotiating new trade pacts for U.S. food and ag exports, said a bipartisan chorus of senators on Wednesday. Since President Biden took office in 2021, the administration has not initiated formal talks for a new free trade agreement anywhere, said members of the Senate Finance Committee during a hearing on the U.S. trade agenda.

Despite its hopes, China will remain a food importer, analysts say

President Xi Jinping has made food security a national priority since becoming China's leader a decade ago, with a multi-prong drive for self-sufficiency in food. It is "an improbable, if not impossible, goal," say analysts from the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a brief.

Senate Republicans renew bid to shift climate funds

Pointing to a “once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Republican staffers on the Senate Agriculture Committee proposed on Wednesday shifting more than $13 billion earmarked separately for climate mitigation into USDA land stewardship programs. Under Congress’ arcane budget rules, the transfer would result in a long-term increase of $1.8 billion a year for stewardship, they said, “subject only to congressional reauthorization.”

Mexico chases China for No. 1 export market

Mexico will buy a record $28.4 billion worth of U.S. food and agricultural exports this fiscal year, only $300 million less than China, the first-place customer, forecast the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. China is now buying more corn and soybeans from Brazil and less from the United States.

U.S. crop sector insulates itself from world market with biofuels, says analyst

After decades of pursuing sales to foreign buyers, the U.S. crop sector is “once again becoming domestic market-focused, due mainly to biofuels policy,” said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, on Wednesday. It would be a significant, albeit gradual, change in focus.

Rice prices are up as India restricts exports

The global rice market is still feeling the impact of India’s decision last August to limit its rice exports in the name of battling high domestic food prices, said two IFPRI analysts. “Rice-importing countries in sub-Saharan Africa have felt the greatest impacts, scrambling to find alternative sources even as global rice prices have risen more than 20 percent since India imposed its restrictions,” they wrote in a blog.

‘A real risk’ for U.S. ag sector in talk of higher tariffs, confronting China — consultant

U.S. agriculture would be a target in a new trade war with China, said a private consultant speaking on a think tank panel on Monday, pointing to former president Donald Trump's support for higher tariffs and calls in the House for a reset of Sino-U.S. trade relations. But Trump's former ag negotiator said tariffs were "the only tool in the tool box" and Trump was right to use them in the past.

As inflation falls, ‘backwards pressure’ on food prices, analyst says

Compared to food price inflation of 11 percent in 2022, grocery price increases will be virtually nonexistent this year, said a Wells Fargo analyst Wednesday during a panel discussion on the 2024 outlook for the food and ag sector. A Rabobank analyst said that softer commodity prices would take the steam out of the hot farmland market.

Iowa eyes tougher enforcement of land ownership rules

Pointing at China, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds asked state lawmakers for stronger enforcement of laws that limit foreign ownership of farmland. “Let’s make sure that American soil remains in American hands,” she said during an annual address to the legislature.

Foreign buyers pay a premium for U.S. farmland, says analyst

An analysis of farmland sales in the Midwest and Plains states found foreign investors paid 13.7 percent more than American purchasers for comparable tracts, but the infrequent transactions did not affect land values overall, said Mykel Taylor, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Auburn University, on Tuesday. Foreign ownership is "pretty hot politically" as an issue, she said, and could result in the USDA becoming part of the powerful federal committee that decides if a foreign purchase poses a national security risk.

Swine epidemic in China casts long shadow on world pork market

China, the world's largest producer and consumer of pork, recovered from an epidemic of African swine fever among his pig herds by late 2021, three years after its first reported outbreak of the disease. Yet the domestic pork market remains volatile, "which may create additional uncertainty among pork exporters," said three USDA economists in a new report.

WTO backs U.S. in challenge of Chinese trade war tariffs

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.

Appetite for meat in China could lead to much larger imports

Meat consumption in China has increased significantly since the 1970s and could climb further in the next decade, giving the country one of the highest per capita consumption rates in Asia, said a USDA report: "This trend creates new opportunities for exporters in the United States and other countries but it also poses food security challenges and environmental impacts."

Senate votes to restrict foreign ownership of ag land

In a reflection of international tensions, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to prohibit China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran from purchasing U.S. agricultural land and agricultural businesses. The language was added to a military spending bill that was sure to pass the Senate and then be reconciled with a House version.

Key lawmaker proposes 60-percent tax on land purchases by U.S. adversaries

The United States would block foreign adversaries from snatching up agricultural land by putting a 60-percent excise tax on purchases by people and companies from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela under a bill sponsored by the chairman of the House's tax-writing committee.

Economic challenges worldwide force retreat in farm exports, says USDA

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.

Biden trade strategy: Stronger ties with like-minded countries

The Biden administration is writing “a new story on trade” that emphasizes cooperation with allies because countries such as China have abused open markets and low tariffs, U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai said in a speech on Wednesday.

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