Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Chairmen Provide Guiding Principles for Trade Negotiations
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman Bob Goodlatte, together with Senator Saxby Chambliss, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman today outlining their expectations for the outcome of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations in Doha, Qatar. In meetings with Ambassador Portman and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Chairman Goodlatte has expressed frustration that U.S. products don’t enjoy open access to foreign markets, putting U.S. producers at a significant disadvantage.
U.S. producers rely significantly on trade. In the U.S., one in three acres is planted for export while 25 percent of gross farm income comes directly from exports. Producers already face significant tariff distortion with worldwide competitors. Tariffs in the U.S. average 12 percent, while tariffs in the rest of the world average 62 percent. Additionally, U.S. producers face unscientific trade barriers with trading partners such as the European Union (EU).
The chairmen identify four principles will guide support for any final agreement including: 1) Improvements in real market access, 2) Greater harmonization in trade-distorting domestic support, 3) Elimination of export subsidies, and 4) Greater certainty and predictability regarding WTO litigation. Without adoption of these principles in any trade agreement, USTR may have trouble garnering Congressional support for such agreement.
“Trade is vital to U.S. producers; therefore, it is important to continue to break down the barriers that prevent our producers from accessing markets worldwide. Our trading partners need to understand that we will do everything possible to ensure the competitive position of American farmers and ranchers, however we cannot unilaterally disarm and scrap our farm support programs without other countries doing the same thing at the same time,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
In the coming weeks, Ambassador Portman will travel to Zurich to meet with several key trade ministers as well as Geneva where he will meet with ministers from the Group of 20 developing country alliance and the Five Interested Parties.