25 Jan 2018 --- Over the last 12 months, the US dairy industry has been fairly vocal on a number of subjects like trade and the forthcoming 2018 Farm Bill. Last month, a dairy delegation spent time on Capitol Hill to talk about these significant themes with congressional leaders, senior members of the Trump administration and USDA officials. In the second part of our two-part report on Donald Trump's first year in office and the food industry, we look at dairy and trade deals. You can read the Part 1 of this report here.
The dairy executives and IDFA staff met with House and Senate leaders who will draft the farm bill, determining national agricultural policy for the next five years.
Stressing the need for better risk management tools that would benefit dairy processors and producers alike, the dairy executives also asked policymakers to establish voluntary incentives to encourage SNAP participants to consume more milk and dairy foods to improve their overall nutrition, especially for children.
In addition, the dairy executives also discussed the need for a timely renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and aggressive pursuit of other bilateral trade agreements that could benefit US dairy companies.
“We have been working tirelessly to assure that top priority issues for the dairy products industry are reflected in trade policy and the development of the next farm bill,” said Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of economic policy & legislative affairs.
“As the House and Senate agriculture committees continue their efforts to craft the next farm bill, this is the perfect time for our dairy leaders to share their stories about how these critical policy issues directly affect their companies and communities.”
The latest NAFTA talks are set to resume this week and there are predictions that the trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada remains in danger of falling apart. With not much progress being made so far, President Trump continues his threat of withdrawal unless a deal can be brokered.
Over the last few months, the US government has been quieter on NAFTA compared to the initial months that followed Trump's inauguration and the strong pre-election pledge to pull out of trade deals that were not beneficial for the US, according to President Trump.
This deal also reignites the now infamous “who will pay for the wall” debate as just a few days ago, the President tweeted: “...The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer-term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the US. The $20 billion dollar Wall is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes from the US NAFTA is a bad joke!”.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently changed to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after the US withdrew, is a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
As US participation was the major linchpin for the deal to be ratified – all 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean signed up to the TPP in 2016, representing around 40 percent of the world's economic output – once Trump won the election, the world realized the writing for this deal, in its original form at least, was on the wall.
Such was the priority for the US to withdraw, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum on January 23, 2017, withdrawing the US from the agreement, which now has to be renegotiated.
In theory, NAFTA could go the same way. Watch this space for more as and when the discussions continue.
There is more speculation on food policy and public health matters where food and nutrition are at the heart of the issue, rather than the action itself. Delays in compliance dates also prevent several different pieces of legislation from being officially enforced which has a direct bearing on the information given to the consumer.
Also, American farmers, agri-food workers and industries wait with baited breath to see what the 2018 Farm Bill will consist of – although they might have to wait until March to get a better idea.
By Gaynor Selby