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Source: Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry news release

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, yesterday held a hearing titled, "Perspectives on U.S. Agricultural Trade."

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order.

The last couple of years have been very busy for the Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as we've worked hard to produce a 2018 Farm Bill that will provide certainty and predictability for United States farmers, ranchers, and growers.

As I've traveled through Kansas, and other areas around the country, having a Farm Bill in place certainly tops the list of concerns I hear. And, the conference committee is doing our work to get a bill to the finish line as soon as possible.

But along with that, of course, I hear about trade.

I hear from wheat growers about the need for market access to sell what they produce. I hear from beef producers about barriers to trade that are preventing their product from entering an export market.

And, I hear from producers across the agriculture industry, and across our value chain, about how trade policies impact their prices, decisions, and livelihoods.

These are not new concerns. The U.S. has long had to work to overcome barriers to trade around the world.

Sometimes those barriers are regulations not based on sound science that might impact specific regions or products. Sometimes barriers are foreign governments that consistently choose not to adhere to or abide by the same rules to which we have all agreed.

We need to hold our trading partners accountable, but I am concerned that some of the trade actions we have seen in recent years are causing uncertainty and unpredictability for the agriculture industry.

On top of already low prices, the agriculture sector has seen immediate negative impacts as a result of retaliatory trade actions. As time goes on without resolution, the concern of losing long-term market access only grows.

I know that Secretary Perdue and the Department of Agriculture also recognize the need for long-term certainty and have made efforts to provide temporary relief to our hard-working producers.

For years, the United States has worked to establish itself as a reliable supplier around the world, through domestic agriculture policies like the Farm Bill, and through strong international trade policies.

Free Trade Agreements, including CAFTA, Korea, and many others have boosted the agricultural economy and supported broader U.S. economic growth.

And of course, there is NAFTA.

In the early 1990s, as Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I traveled with my good friend Chairman Kika de la Garza of Texas to build support for the brand new North America Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

At that time, the total value of U.S. agriculture exports was $43 billion.

Since 1994, when NAFTA went into force, the value of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada has increased by 271 percent and to Mexico by 305 percent, and in 2017 the total value of U.S. agricultural exports was over $138 billion. Let me repeat that. Over the time that NAFTA has been in force, the total value of U.S. agriculture exports has increased from $43 billion to over $138 billion.

I've been encouraged to hear that the effort to modernize and strengthen NAFTA has been progressing.

The announcement a couple of weeks ago that the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement that will preserve the trading relationship the agriculture industry already enjoys, was certainly very welcome news.

I know that our team at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is working hard, even as we speak, to bring our friends from Canada into the agreement as well, and I hope that we hear news on a strong NAFTA agreement very soon.

Progress on NAFTA is extremely important, but equally so is the need for the U.S. to aggressively continue pursuing new Free Trade Agreements around the world.

Simply put, the entire food and agriculture value chain relies on trade.

This was particularly recognized in the last Farm Bill process when Congress, led by this Committee, created the position of the Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the Department of Agriculture.

I thank Secretary Perdue for implementing this new position, and Under Secretary McKinney, thank you for your willingness to lead these efforts, and for joining us today.

Ambassador Doud, it's great to have you at USTR working on behalf of agriculture. Welcome back to the Agriculture Committee.

And thank you to Rob Johansson, Chief Economist at the Department of Agriculture, for being willing to share your expertise this morning.

I look forward to hearing from you all on your perspectives on U.S. agricultural trade.

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.

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