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Trade negotiations with Taiwan complete second round

Legislative Watch: U.S.’s eighth-largest ag export market; New WOTUS rule draws mixed reviews from ag groups; USDA projects net farm income drop for 2023.

Eric Bohl

September 1, 2023

3 Min Read
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The office of the U.S. Trade Representative recently hosted a second round of in-person trade negotiations with its counterparts from Taiwan. The discussions were a part of the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, an effort begun last summer. The two sides discussed issues relating to agriculture, labor and the environment but did not announce any final agreements, according to a readout following the meeting.

The negotiations with Taiwan have raised concerns from Congress, as some members believe the executive branch is exceeding its authority to enter agreements without Congressional approval. The Biden administration has made greater use of “trade executive agreements,” or TEAs, than past administrations. These agreements cannot be as broad-ranging as traditional comprehensive free trade agreements but allow the executive branch to quickly resolve technical issues and lower some trade barriers.

According to USTR, Taiwan was the U.S.’s 10th-largest export market in 2020, with $30.2 billion in goods shipped to the island. This accounted for just over two percent of all U.S. exports in 2020. About one-tenth of those exports were agricultural goods, making Taiwan the U.S.’s eighth-largest agricultural export market.

New WOTUS rule draws mixed reviews from ag groups
In the wake of this spring’s Supreme Court decision limiting the Waters of the United States rule, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers were forced to issue a revised rule this week. The new final rule drops reference to the old “significant nexus” test invalidated in May’s Sackett v. EPA decision and attempts to flesh out its requirement that waters be “relatively permanent” to be covered by the Clean Water Act. Agricultural groups were largely not satisfied with the new rule, expressing frustration that it did not tackle more issues and provide additional clarity for farmers.

After reviewing the rule, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Ted McKinney expressed his frustration with what he perceived as a missed opportunity. “It is baffling that the revised rule does not accurately address all the issues and questions raised by the Supreme Court in the Sackett decision, nor does it address many of the questions stakeholder groups raised about the WOTUS rule EPA released at the end of last year,” McKinney said.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, had mixed feelings about the new language, saying, “EPA had a golden opportunity to write a Waters of the U.S. Rule that’s fair to farmers and stands the test of time, but instead chose to continue government overreach and revise only a small slice of the rule that was rejected by the Supreme Court. We’re pleased the vague and confusing ‘significant nexus’ test has been eliminated as the Supreme Court dictated. But EPA has ignored other clear concerns raised by the Justices, 26 states, and farmers across the country about the rule’s failure to respect private property rights and the Clean Water Act.”

USDA projects net farm income drop for 2023
A new farm income forecast released this week by USDA projects net farm income for calendar year 2023 will be $141.3 billion, a drop of 22.8% from last year’s record-high $183-billion mark. Adjusted for inflation, this equates to a 25.4% decrease from last year. Despite this drop, the expected number remains 22.6% above the 20-year average.

Among the drivers of the decrease are a decline in direct government payments and higher production expenses. Government assistance is expected to fall 19% while production expenses will see a 6.9% increase. The income side of the equation also shows a squeeze, with cash receipts decreasing 4.3% overall. Cash receipts for hogs should see a 10% drop, coming in at $28 billion, or $3 billion less than 2022.

Even though farmers are facing these headwinds, 2023 should mark the third consecutive year net farm income will be above the 20-year average, after a six-year string of below-average results. Cash receipts for cattle and calves are also a bright spot in the report, topping $101 billion this year, an 18% increase over last year.

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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