The Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, under the chairmanship of Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), today held a hearing 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.
"U.S. farm exports reached a new record of $136.3 billion in the 2011 calendar year, making America the world's largest agricultural exporter," said Chairman Tipton (R-CO). "On top of an historic drought, many exporting small farms, including potato farmers in my district, are dealing with a barrage of problems that are making it harder for them to do business. Unfair trade barriers shouldn't be another hindrance to the international marketplace for the agriculture community. SPS measures can be used by foreign governments to manipulate trade practices in violation of their treaty commitments, even though the EPA and FDA and many international organizations have used scientific methods to certify American products as safe. These barriers are hurting jobs. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports over 8,000 American jobs, therefore we must make fair trade a higher priority. This hearing provided valuable insight on this issue and we pledge to work to ensure that American exports, agriculture products and otherwise, receive fair treatment in international markets."
Notable Witness Quotes:
James Boyer, Owner of Jim Boyer Hogs in Ringstead, IA, said, "To fully appreciate the significance of unfair foreign SPS measures, it is essential to understand the importance of exports to the U.S. pork industry and the considerable value they add to both the agriculture economy and the overall U.S. economy. An estimated $21 billion of personal income from sales of more than $97 billion and $34.5 billion of gross national product are supported by the U.S. hog industry. Iowa State University economists estimate that the U.S. pork industry is directly responsible for the creation of nearly 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs and helps generate an additional 515,000 indirect jobs such as in veterinary services, input supplies and other local business support."
Jason Hafemeister, Vice President of Allen F. Johnson and Associates in Washington, DC said, "Thanks to trade agreements that have lowered tariffs and the competitiveness of U.S. farmers and ranchers, ag exports continue to make a positive contribution to the U.S. economy and balance of payments. Promising fundamentals, such as growth in international demand for agriculture and food products, the strong competitive position of the United States, and the process of greater economic integration, all suggest exports will continue to create opportunities for the farm and ranch families and food processors that are at the backbone of our agriculture system.
"However, the persistent use of unjustified import restrictions related to health or safety concerns, sometimes sincerely but also sometimes disingenuously, is one of the most serious constraints on U.S. exports. These measures threaten, if they remain unchecked, to close entire markets to U.S. products. This threat is a particular problem for small businesses -- farm and ranch families, small food processors, brokers, and others that lack the resources and the contacts with foreign governments to complete a sale when a government official makes an arbitrary decision to reject a shipment."
Roger Mix, Owner-Operator of Mix Farms in Center, CO said, "Many of the obstacles raised by Mexico to justify their failure to honor commitments in the 2003 agreement have been phytosanitary in nature but were not based in sound science and did not justify trade restrictions. For example, Mexican potatoes produced in areas of the country with identical pest profiles as those in U.S. production areas have been allowed to move throughout Mexico if they are washed or brushed and labeled for consumption only. Yet U.S. fresh potato exports to Mexico are not allowed to move in a similar manner. The application of a different standard for domestic production than for imports clearly violates the globally accepted principle of "National Treatment."
Carl T. Shaffer, President, of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau in Mifflinville, PA said, "Trade matters to Pennsylvania and America's farmers. As you well know, more than 95% of the global population lives beyond our borders. As such, the agriculture industry is constantly mindful of global markets, the opportunities they present and the numerous trade barriers that exist. Trade barriers to U.S. farmers come in many forms. The most challenging trade barriers that are facing agriculture today are the unscientific sanitary standards and other non-tariff trade barriers."