WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Subcommitte on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, held a hearing today on H.R. 3654, the Selective Agricultural Embargos Act of 1998, sponsered by Cingressman Tim Ewing (R-IL).
H.R. 3654 would require approval of the House and Senate if the President decided to impose an agriculture-specific embargo on a foreign country. This legislation would not interrupt embargoes currently in place, nor would it impede the President's authority to impose cross-sector embargoes.
"Our national security is and should be our top foreign policy priority. However, it is important that all Americans share in the costs and benefits of foreign policy decisions. Agriculture should not be singled out. Every farmer in my district remembers the hardship and financial losses that the Soviet Grain Embargo triggered in rural America," said Ewing.
With the enactment of the Freedom to Farm Act, farmers are more dependent on foreign markets for an increasingly significant portion of their income. During the last five years, exports have accounted for more than one-third of U.S. economic growth. By comparison, in 1970 exports accounted for only 5 percent of our Gross Domestic Product; last year the share had more than doubled to 13 percent.
"Domestic demand doesn't come close to exhausting American grown food and fiber supplies. Our farmers depend on free and fair trade to assure markets for their products. In fact, U.S. agriculture has doubled its dependency on the global marketplace for price stability and therefore a greater share of its income. Exports are a key component of American family farm income," said Goodlatte.
"The four specific agriculture embargoes this country has imposed had, to say the least, adverse impacts on rural America. Those affects aren't temporary. Because of political decisions, entire markets have been lost to our farmers and ranchers. They simply are no longer considered a reliable supplier by their foreign customer. Once the market share is lost it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain," said Goodlatte.
Goodlatte, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over foreign agriculture, represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley. Ewing represents Illinois' Fifteenth District — which includes Livingston and Champaign — in the U.S. House of Representatives.