ATLANTA, GEORGIA, U.S. — The first two years of the Trump administration included a flurry of policies and actions that have impacted the agriculture industry, from a new farm bill, renegotiated trade agreements and increasing tension with China over tariffs, said John Stewart, manager of government affairs for the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA).
“We’ve certainly seen some tension continuing to mount and we are rapidly approaching that March 1 with China to come up with a trade agreement or understanding,” he said during a TECHTalk at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. The event continues through Feb. 14. “We have a few short weeks left until something has to give or we increase those tariffs on Chinese products once again.”
The AFIA wants to work with the administration and Congress to make sure the United States doesn’t level more tariffs that will result in additional retaliatory actions. Last July, Trump announced 25% tariffs on various Chinese products. China responded with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, including soybeans. Prior to the trade war, China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans, purchasing 30 million to 35 million tonnes per year.
Another top priority for the AFIA is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in particular how Congress ratifies the deal, Stewart said.
Congress is likely to start discussions in April but is waiting on reports from various government agencies, including agriculture, about the impact the renegotiated agreement will have.
“We’re trying to solve a lot of trade pieces all at one time, and it has been an interesting road,” Stewart said. “Congress has been very willing to discuss some of those, but again a lot of this authority rests with the administration.”
Several IPPE exhibitors agreed that uncertainty surrounding policies, particularly those dealing with trade, have impacted the agriculture industry.
The biggest challenge right now is the export market and the ongoing trade war with China, said Grant Kennedy, GSI commercial account manager.
“What’s volatile is the decision making,” he said. “People are just not committing because they don’t know what’s going to happen in six months. Are they going to be able to move their grain, should they store it? Decisions are not being made that traditionally may have been made in the past in preparation for harvest.”
Even large grain commodity traders who have profited with exports in the past are having difficulty, Kennedy said.
“They used to worry about getting their river terminals up to speed to support the exports, but they’re not there now, so they’re kind of calling time out on those projects as well,” he said. “It’s affecting the small farmers as well as the big commodity traders.”
Still, the Assumption, Illinois, U.S.-based company met its goals in regard to sales last year.
“Our business is cyclical like any industry is, but it is probably the most consistent,” Kennedy said.
Along with addressing trade, a top priority for the AFIA is the animal food ingredient review and approval process by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, the process takes three to five years, costing AFIA member companies $1.5 million to $2 million per year per product in lost revenue.
One way to fix that is through increased appropriations for the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. The AFIA is working on Capitol Hill and encouraging its members to talk with their lawmakers about approving the funding.
The recent 35-day government shutdown has made things worse, Stewart said. The FDA said every week of shutdown puts it behind a month.
The government shutdown also got in the way of promised regulatory reforms, Stewart said.
“Continuing to talk about is something that I think the ag community appreciates,” Stewart said. “I know it’s been a focus for them. There’s a lot of cogs and gears in the machine that have to turn to make this happen.”
Still, IPPE exhibitors said they are moving forward with their growth plans, showcasing new equipment and services at the Expo.
Ag Growth International (AGI), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is growing across five platforms: food, feed, seed, grain and fertilizer, said David Postill, vice-president of marketing for AGI. At IPPE, the company was highlighting its fertilizer, feed and seed systems.
“We have some great products and some great brands,” Postill said. “We’re really happy with the companies that we’ve added that offer our customer a real complete solution.”
AGI is focused on expanding its business worldwide and has made several recent acquisitions, including Improtech, an engineering firm based in Toronto, Canada, and Sabe Group Companies, a French-based provider of processing solutions for the food, pet food, animal feed, fertilizer and biomass industries.
“It’s a really great mix of providing our customers as many products as we can to solve their problems,” Postill said.
Bühler, Uzwil, Switzerland, is also finding solutions for its customers, showcasing its Multimpact hammer mill and Kubex T pellet mill. The Kubex is one of the most compact pellet mills and produces 45 tonnes per hour of poultry pellets, said Dan Lundt, Bühler sales director, feed and oilseeds North America.
“You can fit this machine in any spots you have now,” he said. “It has lower energy consumption, no vibration, a very low level of noise, so it’s a great machine for any feed production facility.”
Bühler is a one-stop source for its customers, Lundt said, helping from concept through commissioning, including pre-engineering, permitting, electrical, installation, commission, training and customer service.
“We can support the whole process and as you go into the operation of the facility,” Lundt said.