Barrett Focuses Subcommittee's Attention on Agricultural Trade, Says Export Tools are Needed to Ensure Level Playing Field

Apr 24, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Export tools such as the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) and the Market Access Program (MAP) are needed to ensure a level playing field in international markets, according to Rep. Bill Barrett (R-NE), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities.

Barrett, whose subcommittee held a joint hearing with the Subcommittee on Risk Management and Specialty Crops today, said U.S. farmers and ranchers can compete in any market in the world, provided they are given a level playing field.

According to officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who testified at the hearing today, the European Union (EU) spends nearly $9 billion on export subsidies, while last year the U.S. spent only $30 million on similar programs. Likewise, The EU spends roughly $300 million on market promotion programs similar to the U.S.'s Market Access Program (MAP), for which only $90 million is authorized.

"With passage of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, the Uruguay Round of GATT, and budget constraints, it is clear that we must redouble our emphasis on expanding export markets for American farm products. Competing in international markets is imperative to a productive, successful agriculture industry," Barrett said.

"We know that American farmers and ranchers can compete with anyone in the world, in any country in the world. It is the government of those countries our farmers have trouble competing against, and particularly when our own government is not sufficiently committed to working on their behalf," Barrett said.

"Since some of our competitors for international wheat sales have state trading enterprises, unfair trading practices abound. The Canadian Wheat Board and Australian Wheat Board are prime examples of why we don't have a level playing field and why our wheat producers have to contend with trade distorting practices. Both Canadian and Australian wheat exports have increased over the past year at the expense of our producers," Barrett said.

"The European Union remains a potential threat to our remaining wheat export market. When the EU resumed its export subsidy last fall, the need to monitor their actions very closely became apparent. The Export Enhancement Program has been a valuable tool to counter the EU's massive export subsidies, but we have not used EEP since the summer of 1995. That is fighting with one hand tied behind our back, and if we're not careful, we could end up getting whipped," Barrett said.

Barrett represents Nebraska's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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