Trade Talk: On the Record is a new series from USDEC, providing influential policymakers, officials and stakeholders a platform to communicate directly with America’s dairy industry about the trade and supply chain issues that matter to them.
This week, we kick things off with the newly elected Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture for the 118th Congress, Glenn “GT” Thompson. Representative Thompson (R-PA-15) is a longtime member of the Ag committee, serving as its Ranking Member from 2021-2023, and will play an important role in shaping U.S. agriculture and trade policy in 2023 and beyond.
1. What are your major priorities in the next Congress as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee?
The 118th Congress has convened, and we have a Farm Bill that expires in just over eight months. I am committed to hitting the ground running, namely through a rigorous hearing schedule, field listening sessions, and aggressive oversight initiatives. The last Congress provided a minimal foundation, leaving us behind, and I intend to hear from Secretary Vilsack and other relevant officials and stakeholders to discuss executive actions, spending, programmatic operations, and the future of agriculture and nutrition. Not to mention we must balance the Farm Bill process with things like an outstanding Commodity Futures Trading Commission reauthorization, our continued work in the digital commodity space, and issues tangential to our jurisdiction (i.e., WOTUS) that have major implications for production agriculture.
2. With respect to the Farm Bill, would you consider reviewing the Trade Title to add tools to help U.S. ag exporters?
I am content with the hearing the Committee held in April 2022, however I remain frustrated we have yet to hear from Ambassador Tai publicly. One of my immediate objectives is to host her, as well as Under Secretary Taylor and Ambassador McKalip. I am dissatisfied with the President’s lack of focus on expanding markets and do think there are opportunities to explore both with USTR and within the confines of Title III. However, I believe strongly in assessments, so until we are able to take those deeper dives with the individuals responsible for these important programs, their evaluation, and their expansion, I will refrain from identifying specific proposals.
3. Mexico and Canada represent essential markets for dairy producers across the country. We are watching implementation of USMCA closely, particularly Canada’s lack of compliance with its dairy market access obligations. Do you anticipate that Congress will continue to press Canada to take the necessary steps to fully implement its commitments?
I fully expect Congress to continue to closely monitor and engage where necessary. To me, it’s black and white. USMCA is an agreement that Canada is failing to uphold. Together with Chairman Jason Smith and the great team at the House Ways and Means Committee, we will not shy away from holding Canada, and this Administration, accountable to USMCA.
4. As you know well, exports are essential to our nation’s dairy producers and the world’s dairy consumption continue to grow as regions with booming populations and growing economies. Yet, we have seen a complete stop in pursuing trade agreements that would provide new market access and improve competitive advantage. How do we get back in the business of opening markets to our dairy producers? What can Congress do to help?
My colleagues and I have not been shy to highlight the need for this Administration to prioritize trade and our trading relationships. I do think having Under Secretary Taylor at the helm will be a useful tool to assess and pursue market access for our producers, especially if she initiates a rigorous trade mission agenda these next two years. On the USTR side, I hope to see this notion that free trade agreements are a “20th-century tool” disappear, and the USTR devote effort to renewing Trade Promotion Authority and a reinvigoration of discussions to expand market access for our farmers. Launching trade and investment talks are helpful but do not supplant a free trade agreement. American farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality crops, livestock, poultry, and dairy products in the world, and they should be at the heart of any agricultural trade conversations. I also think there is a real opportunity for this Administration to explore and reach consensus with the EU on trade and regulatory issues. This harmonization could lead us, and other countries we continue to trade with, to much more efficient supply chains and potentially, an establishment of international norms. This also could allow us opportunities for stronger coordinating action against China.
5. As you know, the Europeans have been extremely aggressive in confiscating common food and beverage names to monopolized markets – like “parmesan” and “bologna.” Even more concerning is that FTA trading partner with the United States are caving to the European pressures, giving up generic terms for exclusive European use in new trade agreements. What can Congress do to ensure that the Administration stands up to Europe and ensures that we maintain our market access in countries around the world? Judging from the ongoing bicameral, bipartisan support to fight any effort to restrict how domestic companies market their products, Congress will continue to loudly express opposition to the misuse of geographical indications to block the use of common food (and beverage) terms, whether at home or abroad. This is an unnecessary trade barrier that USTR and USDA must continue to refute. As my good friend Jim Mulhern says, American food companies have popularized many cheeses with old world origins. Any threat to that will not be tolerated.