ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, U.S. — The American Soybean Association (ASA) noted on June 8 that in a letter to U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson it has joined groups from multiple agricultural sectors in encouraging the inclusion of a provision in the Chairman’s mark of the upcoming farm bill that would establish an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The trade organizational structure at USDA has remained unchanged since it was last reorganized in 1978,” the groups’ letter said. “Over this period, the value and nature of U.S. agriculture exports has changed dramatically. In 1978, U.S. agriculture exports totaled $29 billion whereas in 2011 they reached $136 billion. In 1978, grains and oilseeds amounted to 60% of all U.S. agriculture exports, while meat and poultry accounted for 3 percent and produce 6 percent. Now grains and oilseeds account for 36 percent of all agriculture exports while meat and poultry constitute 15 percent and produce 13 percent. Meanwhile, over the last 30 years the challenges that U.S. agriculture faces in global markets have increased and markedly changed from primarily tariff barriers to phytosanitary and other non-tariff trade barriers.”
Also in the letter, ASA and its colleagues highlighted the coordination and streamlined cooperation within USDA that the new post would offer.
“An Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs will provide a singular focus on trade and foster more effective coordination of transparent, rules-based trade policies in other USDA agencies,” continued the groups. “Such a position will bring unified high level representation to key trade negotiations with senior, foreign officials and within the Executive Branch. It will also allow future Administrations to recruit an Under Secretary who has extensive experience in international trade negotiation and policy issues. Furthermore, the creation of this Under Secretary position would help streamline management, create greater efficiencies and enhance emphasis in the Office of the Under Secretary responsible for key domestic programs.”