USDA Chiefs Rally for USMCA 09/19 16:43
Perdue Confirms Chinese Farm Visits During Bipartisan Event on USMCA
While former U.S. Agriculture Department secretaries joined Secretary Sonny
Perdue to talk about USMCA, Perdue also confirmed reports that Chinese
delegates here for trade talks will visit some U.S. farms before returning to
China. Perdue said he sees that as a gesture of good will.
By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
WASHINGTON (DTN) -- At least part of China's trade team negotiating in
Washington, D.C., this week will take some time to visit U.S. farms,
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed Thursday.
Perdue was asked about the farm visits at a press event with three of his
predecessors to champion the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Perdue said he did not know what commodities the Chinese delegation is
interested in seeing.
"That's really up to China," he said. "Obviously, we know that their pork
herd has been decimated by African swine fever and they are in the market
really aggressively with pork, swine and soybeans at this time. We hope that
goes to other issues. They know our shopping list, and we hope they come and
are prepared. We're glad the conversations are continuing and we hope they will
CNBC reported the Chinese delegates will visit farms near Bozeman, Montana,
"I think they want to see the production of agriculture," Perdue said of the
visits. "And I think they are trying to build good will, and we welcome that."
Perdue stood with former agriculture secretaries John Block, who served
under President Ronald Reagan; Dan Glickman, who served under President Bill
Clinton; and Tom Vilsack, who served under President Barack Obama. Other former
secretaries joined a letter to encourage Congress to vote on the USMCA.
Vilsack said he thinks if there is any one issue upon which all secretaries
of agriculture can agree, it's the importance of trade to American agriculture,
as he cited that roughly 30% of all farm production ultimately ends up exported.
Agriculture has been one industry putting a full-court press on Congress to
pass USMCA. Besides the secretaries holding their event on Thursday, a
farmer-led event last week also stressed the importance of getting the trade
Asked if the secretaries were worried about the prospects for USMCA, Perdue
said, "I wouldn't say we are worried. We're encouraging Congress to understand
the cross-party, cross-generational (group) of people who have been in this
position (who) feel this is a good deal."
Vilsack, now president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said USMCA
will eliminate a dairy pricing scheme in Canada that has discriminated against
U.S. dairy farmers.
"This has certainly caused our dairy producers a lot of heartburn and
lowered the price of powdered products," Vilsack said.
For dairy, USMCA translates into about $300 million more in additional
sales. For now, the U.S. has been able to maintain its percentage of sales to
Mexico despite Europe already having a new trade agreement with Mexico that
specifies certain cheeses or other products must maintain geographical
indicators. A side agreement to the trade deal will ensure U.S. exporters won't
lose sales of commonly named cheese products. Where U.S. dairy exports have
been hurt in such a fashion is Japan because other competitors have trade
"Our Mexican market is still in good shape," Vilsack said. "The challenge,
though, is if we don't get this agreement through, we will still face a very
closed market in Canada."
Glickman credited Perdue for "doing his best to ensure farmers have access
to world markets" in the midst of global trade battles and keeping President
Donald Trump from withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement
while trade talks continued.
Glickman stressed USMCA is important for national security given that it
involves border countries.
"We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" when it comes to a trade
deal, Glickman said.
Block said USMCA could provide momentum for trade deals with Japan and
possibly China as well.
"NAFTA was good, but this is much better," Block said. "USMCA is better, we
all know it is better. It's better for farmers. It's better for labor and for
business. Get it done and let's move on to the next."
Besides the letter from the secretaries, the National Association of State
Departments of Agriculture also sent a letter to congressional leaders on
Thursday urging Congress to vote on USMCA.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN
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