Kent Bacus Hopes to See U.S. Empowering Beef Demand by Leading More Trade Conversations

Listen to Kent Bacus talking about U.S. beef trade.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster Ron Hays is featuring comments from Farm Director KC Sheperd’s interview with the National Cattlemen’s Association executive director of government affairs, Kent Bacus. Bacus talks about trade issues in the beef industry.

“Over the last several years, we have seen a very aggressive approach from the U.S. government as far as negotiating new market access for our exports,” Bacus said. “Because of that, we have been able to benefit from a lot of that strong foreign demand for our products. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has decided to take a big step back, and in many ways, take a different approach altogether where treaty agreements are no longer the ‘norm.’”

As the Biden administration aims to have conversations about regulatory changes and adopting science-based standards, Bacus said they are giving no incentive or reason to go through with these practices.

Market access has been taken off the table, Bacus said, which means tariff reductions.

“That means even though Thailand may be willing to adopt a science-based provision or two related to beef, they are still going to have a fifty percent tariff on some of our cuts that are going in there,” Bacus said. “It is really hard to move the needle to capture that foreign demand if we don’t have real access. By that, I mean comprehensive that includes both tariff and non-tariff issues.”

While the accomplishments of the Biden administration have been disappointing, Bacus said they have been helpful with some key issues, such as renegotiating a safeguard into Japan.

“We have got to look bigger,” Bacus said. “We have got to look for opportunities in the United Kingdom. A lot of things have been left on the table throughout the Pacific Rim, and until we are fully engaged, and we are talking about both tariff and non-tariff barriers, it is going to be hard to really deliver more gains for U.S. cattle producers.”

One important factor on the policy side, Bacus said, will be the reauthorization of the Trade Promotion Authority.

“We need to make sure that Congress plays a very important role in these negotiations and that there is oversight involved so that you don’t have an administration that is off negotiating what they want, but they are negotiating what the people want,” Bacus said. “That is really where Congress plays an important role. That is currently expired, and we need that to come back.”

Regarding trade in China, Bacus said work must be done to change the way deals are completed in Pacific Rim.

“The Indo-Pacific economic framework is good in concept, but it doesn’t include market access,” Bacus said. “Until that is there, it is going to be really hard to hold China in check.”

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