Weekly Capitol Report

Failed Biden Trade Policies Mean Falling Ag Exports Hurting American Farmers

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Washington, April 26, 2024 | comments

American farmers and ranchers have faced increasing challenges in recent years made worse by President Biden’s refusal to lay out a strategic trade agenda and, worse, his failure to advocate for American agriculture on the world stage. In 2023, the U.S. agricultural trade deficit reached a staggering $21 billion, continuing a trend of rising trade deficits that began under the current administration. This is especially alarming when compared to the average trade surplus of over $5.2 billion for U.S. Agriculture during the Trump Administration.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently downplayed the significance of rising agricultural trade deficits, citing the “strength” of the U.S. economy and dollar that has given Americans more buying power on the international market. The Ways and Means Committee has traveled across the country to speak with working Americans, farmers, ranchers, and small businesses. What they have told us directly contradicts Ambassador Tai’s claims.

American farmers and ranchers face not only poor economic conditions and rising prices, but trade barriers across the world that block them from being able to compete fairly in foreign markets. For example, Thailand currently slaps American beef producers with a 50% tariff, severely limiting their access to that market and contributing to rising trade deficits, which are projected to grow to a record $30.5 billion this year. Trade barriers like this exist because the Biden Administration has not prioritized the interests of American agriculture producers by demanding our trading partners eliminate unfair tariffs and non-tariff barriers to U.S. food. It’s time for the Administration to stop passing the blame.

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration continues to drag its feet on enforcing existing trade agreements to protect our agriculture exporters. Simultaneously, it is bypassing Congress to negotiate fake, unenforceable trade dialogues, working groups, compacts, and handshakes on an ad hoc basis – zero strategy whatsoever. Without robust enforcement and a proactive trade agenda that respects Congress’s constitutional trade authority, the United States stands no chance of holding our trading partners accountable or combatting China’s unfair trade practices.

In stark contrast to President Biden’s inaction, the Trump Administration aggressively pursued a trade agenda that prioritized the interests of American farmers and ranchers. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a prime example of what can be achieved when the United States holds our trading partners to account. The Biden Administration must aggressively utilize this agreement to protect American farmers, whether for biotechnology in Mexico or dairy access in Canada. The new and improved enforcement mechanisms included within USMCA must be utilized to ensure market access for our agriculture products.

The successes of the Trump Administration’s trade agenda were not accidental but rather the result of putting the needs of American farmers and ranchers first. This approach should be the blueprint for American trade because we have seen the results, and America’s farmers have felt them.

The Biden Administration must learn from its mistakes and look to the successes of its predecessor. This means enforcing existing trade agreements, holding trading partners accountable for unfair practices, and advocating for greater market access for American agricultural products.

As the breadbasket of the world, American farmers and ranchers have the capacity to feed and clothe not only our own nation but other nations around the world. We can only realize this potential if our trade policies support and promote the interests of America’s agricultural sector like they did under the Trump Administration.

The Ways and Means Committee and Congress stand ready to work with the Biden Administration to ensure new and fair market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers. The current trade deficit makes clear the status quo is no longer acceptable.

This column originally appeared in Agri-Pulse.

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