WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities today in a hearing urged the Clinton Administration to support Most Favored Nation (MFN) status for China, funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fast track authority, implementation of the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) for wheat and wheat flour, and the exemption of food and agriculture commodities in sanctions imposed under the Arms Export Control Act to strengthen and promote U.S. agricultural trade.
Today's hearing addressed the adverse effects the current world economic situations have placed on United States agriculture and faulted the Administration for failing to aggressively support programs necessary to strengthen U.S. agricultural trading opportunities.
"It is necessary that the Administration be more aggressive in helping U.S. farmers develop and maintain markets. Congress' intent with the passage of the Freedom to Farm Bill was USDA's full utilization of all tools available to enhance sales and discourage unfair competition. In order for the Farm Bill to be successful, farmers must have a highly aggressive and focused export policy," said Congressman Bill Barrett (R-NE), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities.
The Asian financial crisis and limitations on exports due to U.S. government sanctions on 70 countries are causing a drop in commodity prices and U.S. agricultural export opportunities. In addition, the Administration's failure to aggressively support fast track trade negotiating authority, MFN status for China, and EEP for wheat flour have compounded the adverse affects on American agriculture and agriculture families.
"If we are in the business of selling our agricultural products to the world, why are we telling two-thirds of our potential customers to go somewhere else? Trade sanctions are ineffective and only hurt American farmers and ranchers. I believe in fast-track authority, continued funding of the International Monetary Fund, and eliminating agricultural products from trade sanctions," Barrett said.
"When President Clinton was trying to get Congressional support for WTO (World Trade Organization) implementation legislation, he promised agricultural members that he would use all agricultural export tools and use EEP to the 'max'. If there is some disillusionment in agriculture -- both on the Hill and in the countryside -- I would argue that it is due to the lack of the Administration's commitment to use our trade tools," Barrett said.
In 1996, Congress passed the Freedom to Farm bill that returned control of farming and ranching operations to producers and in exchange there was reduction in direct government financial support. Passage of the Farm Bill rested, in part on an understanding that the Administration would then be aggressive in its agricultural export programs.
"Our agriculture producers feed the world but are being stopped at the door by the current Administration's poor foreign policy choices. The Administration continues to use our agriculture products as a bargaining chip to enforce its own policies. But the only group suffering under these actions are the American farmers and ranchers. Our agriculture producers should not have to assume the responsibility of enforcing foreign policy," said Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture at today's hearing.
"It is now time to follow through with the promises we made to our farmers and ranchers. Let's push for the export programs that strengthen our economy and benefit the hard working American farming and ranching families," Smith said.
Barrett represents Nebraska's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District --which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.