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.
Committee Continues Trade Agenda to Review Agricultural Trade Negotiations
Goodlatte Says , "We Want to See Markets Open Around the World"
Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to review agricultural trade negotiations during which they heard from farmers and ranchers who are most affected by agricultural trade. A complete witness list is at the bottom of the release.
This is the second in a series of hearings related to agricultural trade. Last month the Committee heard from Agriculture Secretary, Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick.
"Trade negotiations offer an opportunity for the United States to increase agricultural exports," Goodlatte said. "U.S. goals for these negotiations are to decrease and harmonize tariffs, eliminate export subsidies and reduce and harmonize trade distorting domestic support policies."
Goodlatte went on to comment on developments over the past couple of weeks in the Doha Development Round, specifically the European Union reportedly saying that it will accept that all counties should set an end date for the abolition of agricultural export subsidies.
"I hope that the progress that has been noted will move these negotiations forward, but it is important to remember that there are three pillars of these agricultural negotiations----elimination of export subsidies, harmonizing reductions in trade distorting domestic support and major increases in market access," Goodlatte continued.
Ranking Member Stenholm said, "Increased trade is vital for the future of American agriculture. As we move towards a framework for negotiations on agriculture in the Doha Round, I am concerned that we do not lose sight of the negotiating principals we set out at the beginning of the process. And given the disappointing developments at the Cancun Ministerial and the recent WTO action regarding Brazil 's dispute settlement case, I am concerned that if we wait too long the window of opportunity will be closed."
U.S. agricultural markets are already open to imports. Agricultural tariffs worldwide average about 62%, while U.S. agricultural tariffs are 12%.
Goodlatte concluded, "It is to the advantage of U.S. agriculture that we continue to open markets and remove barriers to our agriculture exports."
The overall U.S. trade deficit in 2003 is $489 billion. This means U.S. borders are open and U.S. consumers have significant access to foreign goods.
Last year, the Committee held hearings on agricultural trade, biotechnology and on geographical indications. The Committee will continue to follow these issues. This includes ongoing multilateral trade negotiations and all regional and bilateral negotiations. It also includes oversight of past agreements, such as with China , and other accessions to the WTO, such as Russia . It means looking closely at problems U.S. agriculture faces regarding sanitary and phytosanitary issues, such as those with Australia .
Since becoming Chairman, Goodlatte has placed a high priority on working with the Administration to secure new agreements that will benefit farmers and ranchers.
•Mr. Greg Lee, Chairman, National Chicken Council, Springdale , Arkansas
•Mr. Woody Anderson, Chairman, National Cotton Council, Colorado City , Texas
•Mr. Dee Vaughn, President, National Corn Growers Association, Dumas, Texas
•Mr. Bart Ruth, Past President, American Soybean Association, Rising City , Nebraska
•Mr. Dan Gertson, Vice Chairman , U.S. Rice Producers Association, Lissie , Texas
•Mr. Terry Jones, President, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Powell , Wyoming
•Mr. Squire Smith, President, Florida Citrus Mutual, Eagle Lake , Florida
•Mr. Lawrence T. Graham, Steering Committee Coordinator, Coalition for Sugar Reform, Vienna , Virginia
•Ms. Jan Lyons, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Associations, Manhattan , Kansas
•Mr. Dennis McDonald, Trade Committee Chairman, Rancher-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America , Melville , Montana
•Mr. David J. Frederickson, President, National Farmers Union , St. Paul , Minnesota
•Mr. Charles Beckendorf, Chairman of the Board, National Milk Producers Federation, Tomball , Texas
•Mr. C. Manly Molpus, President and CEO, Grocery Manufacturers of America , Washington , D.C.
•Ms. Ellen Levinson, Executive Director, Coalition for Food Aid, Washington , D.C.