Meat industry association calls for Chinese trade agreement

Legislative Watch: China was U.S. pork's third largest value market; ag groups speak out against looming port strike; Tyson backtracks on antibiotic-free beef plans.

Eric Bohl

July 5, 2024

3 Min Read
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A leading association representing meat processors is calling for the U.S. to enter “comprehensive trade agreements” with China. Pork exported from the U.S. to China currently faces a 33% tariff rate, in large part due to Chinese retaliation for actions first taken in the Trump administration and continued by President Joe Biden. These Section 301 tariffs were initially implemented in 2018 to combat Chinese theft of intellectual property. 

Last week, the Meat Institute submitted comments in response to the U.S. Trade Representative’s proposed modifications to the Section 301 actions. According to a press release accompanying the comments, last year China was the U.S. beef and pork industries’ third largest value market and the U.S. poultry industry’s second largest value destination.

“The Section 301 tariffs and resulting retaliatory measures imposed by China have caused undue harm to U.S. agricultural exports, including meat exports,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “U.S. trade policy, such as the one proposed in this Section 301 action, should not inflict pain on domestic producers, companies, and workers. Instead, restoring U.S. leadership in international trade through high-standard, comprehensive trade agreements would be a more effective long-term strategy. Market diversification initiatives, coupled with strategic competition with China, will lift all sectors of the U.S. economy without exacerbating tensions or existing economic hardship.”

Ag groups speak out against looming port strike

A potential strike that could shut down many of the nation’s ports is raising concerns among agriculture and business groups. The International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance are embroiled in a contract dispute over their current agreement, which expires Sept. 30. The ILA has threatened to strike if disagreements are not worked out before the deadline.

A broad coalition of over 150 associations, including many agriculture groups, sent a letter to President Biden the last week of June urging action. The ILA and USMX missed a June 10 milestone by which they were expected to begin negotiations, increasing fears of a larger breakdown in negotiations. The letter asks the Biden administration to “immediately work with both parties to resume contract negotiations and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.”

The contract dispute impacts all ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. Currently all ports on the West Coast are operating under a long-term contract, after union representatives and port operators reached a six-year agreement last summer. Any shutdown caused by a strike could cause freight patterns to shift toward these west coast ports to alleviate delays.

Tyson backtracks on antibiotic-free beef plans

Amid continued financial struggles, meat giant Tyson Foods appears to be reducing its production of costly antibiotic-free beef. A report by Bloomberg uncovered numerous pieces of evidence that the program is being scaled back. These include an internal company document verifying that ABF will have reduced availability beginning in January and reports from a major customer that Tyson has informed it that it could no longer provide the product.

Tyson CEO Donnie King recently said on an earnings call that he expects the company to lose $100 million to $400 million for the year. Tyson also backed away from plans to expand no antibiotics ever chicken production last July, in a recognition of the challenges and costs associated with avoiding antibiotics.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the company said, “Tyson Foods is dedicated to maintaining the health and welfare of the animals within our supply chain. We base our decisions on sound science and an evolving understanding of the best practices impacting our customers, consumers and the animals in our care. We continue to offer antibiotic-free beef based on market demand, and our commitment to antibiotic stewardship has not changed.”

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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