Ag trade groups warn against hurting China exports

Legislative Watch: China now largest buyer; gray wolves reintroduced in Colorado; poultry tournaments rule to move forward in February.

Eric Bohl

December 29, 2023

3 Min Read
Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party recently issued a report laying out approximately 150 recommendations for ways the United States could better compete with China. Among the suggestions was a proposal to repeal China’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations status.

Instead of PNTR treatment, the committee recommends creating a “new tariff column that restores U.S. economic leverage to ensure that [China] abides by its trade commitments and does not engage in coercive or other unfair trade practices and decreases U.S. reliance on [Chinese] imports in sectors important for national and economic security.”

Farmers for Free Trade, a coalition of pro-trade agriculture groups, sent a letter to the committee warning about the potential negative impacts such moves could have on U.S. agriculture exports to China. The letter was signed by 17 national agricultural advocacy groups.

“In the past two decades, U.S. export sales to China have skyrocketed,” the letter says. “In 2022, the U.S. exported $38.11 billion in food and agricultural products to China – an astounding 22-fold increase – since gaining PNTR status. China is now the largest buyer of U.S. food and agricultural products, purchasing 19% of our exports. These exports are critical to America’s farmers and rural communities.”

Gray wolves reintroduced in Colorado

Just days before Christmas, wildlife officials in Colorado released 10 adult gray wolves into the wild near Rocky Mountain National Park. The effort is the result of a 2020 ballot initiative mandating reintroduction of wolves into western Colorado.

Proposition 114, which narrowly passed 51% to 49%, mandated that the reintroduction begin by the end of 2023. Voters in the Denver and Boulder areas heavily supported it, while those in western areas where the wolves were released were vehemently opposed. Six females and four males flown in from Oregon were released in this first round.

Livestock groups, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, sued unsuccessfully to delay or stop the reintroduction. The state of Colorado has established a fund to compensate livestock owners up to $15,000 per animal killed by wolves.

Poultry tournaments rule to move forward in February

Despite pushback from lawmakers, USDA plans to move ahead with its timeline for implementing the Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments Rule. A bipartisan group of nearly 65 members of the Congressional Chicken Caucus had asked for a 180-day delay.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told The Hagstrom Report that the program will move forward February 12 as planned. “It’s not as if what’s being asked is particularly onerous” since the information already is “very easily available,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to extend it. I’m not going to delay the important work of balancing the relationship.”

In their letter to Vilsack, the lawmakers strongly disagreed. “The rule establishes numerous additional disclosure requirements, changes what provisions must be included in contracts, introduces various open-ended and novel definitions and terms, requires companies establish entire oversight systems from scratch, and injects significant ambiguity regarding compliance. The provisions in the rule requiring certain terms be included in contracts are so novel that it appears the industry could have to amend nearly every contract – tens of thousands in total – in just two months over three major federal holidays. By providing just 75 days to implement the rule, AMS has dramatically underestimated the number of people involved, hourly rates, and time required of compliance officers, regulatory consultants, attorneys, executives, and other services required to implement the rule.”

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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