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 Testifies Before Trade Subcommittee
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Appearing before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Smith stressed farmers' and ranchers' increasing reliance on export income and the importance of removing trade barriers to open world markets to agricultural producers.
"In 1996, significant reforms were made to U.S. farm programs. These reforms returned control of the farming operation to the producers in exchange for sharp restrictions on the level of government support to the farmer," Smith said. "The goal was to provide U.S. farmers with the flexibility to plant for the market. For this plan to be successful, the U.S. government must ensure that our farmers and ranchers can compete against other exporters, and not against foreign governments."
"Bipartisanship is how the United States is able to secure trade agreements and ensure that the rules are followed. The Uruguay Round Agreement and NAFTA are in place because of the work begun by the Reagan Administration; the negotiations that took place during the Bush Administration; and the negotiations that were concluded and the agreements signed during the Clinton Administration," Smith said.
"Using any yardstick, the EU subsidizes agriculture more than the U.S. This is a well known fact. Not only does the EU spend large amounts of money, it spends that money on programs that distort world markets. Certainly the EU should spend whatever its taxpayers determine appropriate to support farmers. But it should not link that support to production and thereby distort world agriculture markets," Smith said.
"Despite having positive decisions from the WTO on two cases brought by the U.S. against EU agriculture practices, no trade in beef or bananas has resumed," Smith said. "I congratulate the U.S. Trade Representatives and officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their success in prevailing before the WTO. However, the successes are not complete until the EU implements these decisions."
The EU is the second largest export market for U.S. agriculture. In 1997, U.S. agricultural exports to the EU were $10.5 billion and imports from the EU totaled $7.5 billion.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.