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Source: American Farm Bureau Federation news release

The ability to expand trade opportunities is vital to America's farmers and ranchers, but using scientific standards as the basis to address barriers erected by trade partners also warrants action, according to a cattle rancher from Colorado.

Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors, today told the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade that Farm Bureau supports increased market access for agriculture. A major challenge presented in the current round of negotiations with Europe is not just the traditional tariff issues but the even greater obstacles presented by technical barriers to enhanced trade.

"The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union must deal with the many substantive issues that impede U.S.-EU agricultural trade," Shawcroft said.

Trade-related issues of concern to agriculture include long-standing barriers against conventionally raised U.S. beef, ongoing restrictions against U.S. poultry and pork, and actions that limit U.S. exports of farm goods produced using biotechnology.

Further, "It is imperative that TTIP be a high-standard trade agreement that covers all significant barriers in a single, comprehensive agreement," Shawcroft said.

Scientific standards are the only basis for resolving these issues, Shawcroft explained.

In describing how imposing non-tariff trade barriers can cause economic harm to U.S. agriculture, Shawcroft pointed to Mexico's past use of sanitary-phytosanitary measures to block the importation of U.S. potatoes. That issue has since been resolved through negotiations; U.S. farmers are now allowed to export potatoes to Mexican cities with populations of 100,000 or more.

Revenue from U.S. potatoes exports to Mexico could be as high at $80 million, a four-fold increase. Colorado farmers alone currently send about seven truckloads of potatoes a day to Mexico-nearly 2,000 truckloads a year.

Farm Bureau also pressed for progress in the Trans Pacific Partnership. The recent addition of Japan as a full participation in the TPP talks enhances the significance of the negotiations and makes the agreement much more encompassing of North American goals for agricultural trade, Shawcroft noted.

Japan is the fourth-largest agricultural export destination for the U.S. with more than $12.4 billion dollars in sales in 2013. However, despite some trade success in Japan, several restrictive policies that inhibit U.S. exports remain in place and must be resolved, such as high tariffs on dairy, horticulture, rice and other products, along with various unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary barriers.

In addition to regional efforts, the U.S. also must pursue greater trade liberalization at the global level.

"As a member of the World Trade Organization, U.S. agriculture must continue to seek a commercially meaningful outcome through expanded market access from WTO negotiations," Shawcroft said. "We must remain committed to advancing the goal of trade liberalization and increased opportunities for real trade growth."

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