SARASOTA, FLORIDA, U.S. —  Globalization is happening, and U.S. agriculture needs strong trade policies to have a seat at the table, said Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, on Feb. 15 at the opening general session of the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) 13th International Marketing Conference and 56th Annual Membership Meeting.

Political analyst and publisher of The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook, set the stage at the session with a keynote presentation delving into the 2016 political climate and how it may impact trade policy, including the approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

He was followed by Vetter, who gave insights via FaceTime into the potential impact that TPP could have on grain exports.

TPP is a 21st century agreement that includes in its framework the ability for additional countries to join after it is enacted. This is important as at least eight additional countries have expressed interest in participating after the original 12 negotiating parties ratify it, Vetter said.

Both Cook and Vetter expressed hope TPP passes in the U.S. Congress soon but are unsure of the possibility of this happening during the balance of 2016.

“The council supports the TPP agreement because it would enhance market access for U.S. grains and co-products, address non-tariff trade barriers and be the first trade agreement to include provisions related to biotechnology,” said Alan Tiemann, USGC chairman. “TPP will set the rules of the road for grain exports for decades to come, so we know it’s critical to capturing emerging export opportunities — and to maintaining the United States’ competitiveness — in the global grain trade.”

A panel discussion about the changing farm market in Argentina and the work of MAIZALL, the international maize alliance, rounded out the USGC general session. That featured Alberto Morelli, first vice-president of MAIZALL and former president MAIZAR, an Argentine grain farmer association; Martin Fraguio, executive director of MAIZAR; and Anibal Ivancich, president of MAIZAR.

The panel discussed how high inflation rates may keep Argentine farmers from taking full advantage of the policy changes enacted by the recently-elected President Mauricio Macri including eliminating the export permit system known as the Register of Export Operations (ROE) for grains and oilseeds.

However, the men said farmers in their home country are utilizing defense mechanisms that reduce their cost of production, including seeds that contain biotech traits, making their participation in the MAIZALL alliance grow in importance. They agreed that the three participating countries in MAIZALL - Argentina, the U.S. and Brazil - are stronger as a group while working to address global market access barriers, USGC said.

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