The House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade held a hearing today on the impact of foreign sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on small family farms and agriculture exports. SPS measures are non-tariff food requirements from foreign nations intended to protect the health and safety of their populations and environments. While SPS measures permit all nations to ban products that are unsafe, in too many instances foreign nations have imposed SPS measures that have little to do with scientifically-based safety concerns and have instead become the preferred means to protect their own agriculture industries from competition.
During the hearing, Congressman Critz, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, praised the rise in agricultural exports, while insisting that the United States pursue fair trade provisions and agreements that level the international playing field for U.S. farmers.
Witnesses at today's hearing included: Carl T. Shaffer, President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau; James Boyer, Owner of Jim Boyer Hogs in Ringstead, IA; Jason Hafemeister, Vice President of Allen F. Johnson and Associates in Washington, DC; and Roger Mix, Owner-Operator of Mix Farms in Center, CO.
Below is Congressman Critz's full statement for the hearing:
Of the Honorable Mark Critz, Ranking Member
Committee on Small Business Subcommittee
on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade
"Market Closed: Foreign Trade Barriers Facing Small Agriculture Exporters"
July 26, 2012
"Right now job creation is priority one for this Committee -- and that means looking to new markets, whether they are domestic or abroad. One such opportunity lies in agricultural exports, which have exceeded imports since the early 1970s. In fact, last year, U.S. agricultural exports reached nearly $140 billion, outpacing the previous record set in 2008 by $23 billion and surpassing 2010's total by $29 billion. This growth shows that America's farmers are essential to leading our economy forward, spurring development and employment gains throughout the country.
"Within this sector, small farms play a key role, accounting for 91 percent of all farms and 23 percent of overall agricultural production. Not surprisingly, these smaller farms are actively engaged in international trade, which now drives 20 percent of their employment.
This is especially true for my home state. During an April field hearing in Pittsburgh, we heard the significant role that international trade plays in Western Pennsylvania's economy. In fact, agricultural exports support more than 20,000 jobs in our state. Further inroads in foreign markets are necessary to generate even more jobs in our local communities.
"In order to do so, key challenges must be overcome. Foremost among them are non-tariff trade barriers related to food safety, which severely limit agricultural exports. Farmers across the U.S. face restrictions ranging from inspection protocols, safety standards, and production requirements. While these limitations are permissible under the World Trade Organization, they are often not scientifically supported. This not only hurts our farms, but also deprives consumers around the globe of access to high-quality American food and agricultural goods.
"The breadth of these restraints is staggering and they reach into nearly every product grown or raised on America's farms. For our country's poultry producers, this means that such important markets like China, India, and Japan are off limits. Pork producers cannot export to the European Union, Singapore, and even Peru. And cattle ranchers face a maze of confusing restrictions, preventing them from reaching lucrative customers in Brazil, Mexico, and Hong Kong. When you add in the additional restrictions on dairy and fruits and vegetables, it is amazing that our farmers can reach any markets outside the U.S.
"The impact of this reaches into communities like mine in Western Pennsylvania, where local dairy farmers are left with fewer customers, even though foreign goods are plentiful in local stores. The truth is that for many, the promises of free trade has never been realized, and America's farms face the prospect of having to compete with foreign imports, without having access to those very markets.
"Reversing these unfair practices has been extremely difficult. The U.S. Trade Representative has taken the lead in mitigating the impact of these standards. They have worked to undo restrictions in Japan and Korea on U.S. cherries and citrus, as well as barriers in South Africa and Sri Lanka for apples and seed potatoes. They were also able to get Kuwait and Taiwan to lift unwarranted restrictions on U.S. exports of poultry and poultry products, while it also negotiated for full market access for U.S. beef to the United Arab Emirates. Clearly this is progress, but more needs to be done if we are going to achieve the President's goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end 2014.
"Aside from the bilateral efforts of the USTR, there is a lot riding on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This multiregional trade pact will ideally set common certification requirements for agricultural products, which will ultimately be adopted by all signees of the partnership. This could greatly reduce the adverse impact of these barriers on U.S. farmers. Done right, trade agreements can create jobs as they increase exports and help our economy recover, keeping America a place of world-leading innovation with a strong middle class. I opposed the Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Panama and Columbia, as I felt they would increase our trade deficit by allowing unfair trade practices to continue with currency manipulation, antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place against US exports. I am concerned that the TPP negotiations must be transparent, with ongoing consultations with impacted Congressional committees and the public, so they may have input on critical policies that promote economic development with shared prosperity on a level playing field.
"Regardless of the manner in which these challenges are overcome, it is important that we address them quickly. The longer we wait, the greater the damage to our farms, their workers, and their families -- and our country's economy. After all, every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports over 8,400 jobs on and off the farm. Export growth by small farms thus not only supports jobs, but also enhances U.S. productivity and raises the standard of living, particularly in our rural regions.
"I want to thank all of the witnesses in advance and I look forward to their testimony."