Congress needs to pass TPA

Legislative Watch: China now EU's largest trade partner; USDA invests in American made fertilizer; E-15 year-round bill; WOTUS exceptions; National Ag Day.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

March 24, 2023

4 Min Read
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A group of over 50 agricultural and food organizations are calling on Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority which will allow the U.S. to negotiate additional free-trade agreements which are critical for U.S. agriculture.  

The organizations highlighted in a letter to Congress that the U.S. was falling behind our competitors. The U.S. has not implemented a comprehensive trade agreement that opens new markets in over a decade, while our competitors continue to implement new agreements.  

"The essential question is not only whether the U.S. is working for new market access, but also how well the U.S. is doing so relative to our economic competitors. Regrettably, America is falling badly behind. Between 2010 and 2020, China and the European Union enjoyed over twice as much advantage from trade agreement tariff reductions as the U.S. In this decade, our situation to date is far worse. The U.S. has not implemented a comprehensive trade agreement that opens new markets in over a decade."

The group noted that China is now the EU's largest trading partner, displacing the U.S., a result of China joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. China has requested to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. CPTPP was a U.S. initiative, but former President Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2017.  

Those signing the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Animal Health Institute, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation. 

TPA expired in 2021 and the Biden administration has not indicated an interest in renewing TPA or pursuing new FTAs. 

TPA was established by Congress in 1974. It gives the administration negotiating objectives and priorities for free-trade agreements. After an agreement is negotiated, Congress gives an up or down vote, without amendments.

USDA invests in American made fertilizer
USDA announced it was awarding $29 million in grants to increase production of fertilizer in the U.S. as part of the administration's Fertilizer Production Expansion Program.  

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "By expanding the production of domestic fertilizer supplies, we can grow independent local businesses, bring production and jobs to rural communities and support fair prices for our farmers."

The grants were awarded to eight businesses located in Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio and Washington.  

USDA received over $3 billion in applications from 350 independent businesses from 47 states and two U.S. territories. Additional grants are expected to be announced later. 

The $500 million grant program was announced last year in an effort to increased fertilizer production in the U.S. and address food security.  

Bill would make E-15 available year-round
Legislation has been introduce in the Senate and House of Representatives that would make E-15 available year-round.

The "Consumer and Retailer Choice Act of 2023" would allow for the year-round, nationwide sale of E15 by permanently extending Reid vapor pressure volatility waiver to ethanol blends above 10%.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the bill in the Senate and Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Adrian Smith (R-NE) in the House.

WOTUS takes effect except in Texas and Idaho
The Biden administration's Waters of the U.S. rule went into effect on Monday. However, a judge in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas blocked the rule from going into effect in Texas and Idaho. It remains in effect in the other 48 states.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Todd Wilkinson said, "This latest WOTUS rule will place more burdens on family farms and ranches, drive up costs, and prevent cattle producers like me from making investments in our land. While we appreciate the court's injunction of the rule in Texas and Idaho, we are strongly disappointed in the decision to keep this WOTUS rule in place in 48 states, and I am proud of NCBA's efforts to continue the fight against this rule."

Celebrating National Ag Day
On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., agricultural organizations, administration officials and congressional members celebrated National Ag Day.  

The importance of agriculture to the U.S. economy was highlighted in the 2023 Feeding the Economy report. America's food and agriculture sector is responsible for over $8.6 trillion or 20% of the country's economic activity. It supports nearly 23 million jobs or 15% of U.S. employment. The report can be found here.

President Joe Biden signed a proclamation declaring March 21 as National Agricultural Day. The proclamation said, "American farms remind us of the beauty and generosity of our Nation. They feed the country and the world, and with each new planting season, they embody that most American of things — possibilities. On National Agriculture Day, we celebrate all the farmers, farmworkers, ranchers, fishers, foresters and other agricultural workers who do so much to make our nation strong, fuel our economy and steward our lands. America owes them."

The proclamation also highlighted efforts by the administration to address anti-competitive practices.  

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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