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.
Smith, Agriculture Committee Address Goals for Future Trade with Asia, Pacific Region
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, at a hearing today addressed issues surrounding U.S. agricultural trade with Asia and the Pacific Region in preparation for the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral negotiations.
"The major issues between the U.S. and our trading partners in this region include sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are used as non-tariff trade barriers, state trading enterprises, and improved access to the markets of this region. For many of the countries in the Asia/Pacific region of the world the U.S. shares the goals of elimination of export subsidies and domestic support programs that distort worldwide agricultural trade," Smith said.
"For American farmers and ranchers, trade is an essential part of their livelihood. Currently, exports account for 30 percent of U.S. farm cash receipts. We produce much more than we consume in the United States and therefore our exports are vital to the prosperity and success of U.S. farmers and ranchers. The future holds even greater promise for agriculture exports as world income and economic growth expand," Smith said.
"The 1999 WTO negotiations can provide a unique opportunity for United States agriculture to further reduce tariffs, open new markets, and address unfair trade practices around the world. Specifically, among the issues most likely to be on the 1999 WTO negotiating agenda are several that were not addressed effectively, or at all, during the Uruguay Round, " Smith said.
"I want to see improved access for U.S. agricultural exports; I want to see non-tariff trade barriers eliminated; and I want growth and expansion of our agriculture trade because it is good for United States farmers and ranchers, and all who contribute to providing food for people of our country and the world," Smith said.
"The farmers and producers in my district are particularly concerned about China's WTO accession bid. China has recently made available for sale 1.4 million bales of cotton at prices far below cost. As we consider China's bid for WTO accession, we must also determine whether China is ready to play a positive role in the next round of WTO negotiations on agriculture," said Representative Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), Ranking Democrat Member of the Committee.
The Committee on Agriculture is holding a series of four hearings in preparation of the 1999 WTO negotiations. Today's hearing was the second in the series and focused on trade with Asia and the Pacific Region. Subsequent hearings will review agricultural trade issues with countries in Africa and the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.