USDA Undersecretary Promotes Trade Benefits at Farm Bureau Convention

January 23, 2024

Trade continues to be a very important issue for farmers and ranchers. Simply put, we can’t consume or use all the food and fiber we raise in America. During the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, Alexis Taylor, USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs talked with Farm Bureau members about why trade remains a top priority at USDA.

"Trade still makes up a significant part of farmers and ranchers bottom line," said Taylor. "Part of my job and what we do at USDA is really to try and work to promote our agricultural sectors profitability. Roughly across the whole ag sector, about 20% of what we're producing is being exported. So, those markets are key to our rural community staying strong and really thriving."

Montana Farm Bureau Director Kris Descheemaeker agrees. She says they’ve seen the benefits of trade on their cow/calf operation near Lewistown.

"We have in the past taken our cattle to the endpoint, to the processor and done the ownership to that point," said Descheemaeker. "But when they get to that processor, if there's an opportunity for an overseas market that they can put those cattle into, that benefits the price that we're going to get for those cattle doesn't matter if we're ownership to that point, or we sell them to a farmer feeder who sells them. Having that opportunity to go beyond the domestic market is a key point of helping keep the market in a successful area for us as cow calf producers back at home."

However, increased competition has created some trade headwinds for the U.S. lately. All the more reason says Undersecretary Taylor to continue to build relationships with our key trading partners.

"There are challenges we are facing increased competition, particularly from South America and a strong US dollar," said Taylor. "I think that's really on us then to be out there, to be building relationships, to be investing in our agricultural export markets, to make sure we're able to compete with people all over the world who are aggressively pursuing these markets as well."

She also told Farm Bureau members that the Biden Administration’s Climate Smart Initiatives are helping to build more credibility with trading partners not create trade barriers.

"One of the things we're able to do because of the investments that we have made at USDA with farmers and every state in the country is around the partnerships for climate smart commodities," said Taylor. "We have invested $3 billion. We are doing 141 projects on 25 million acres. But what that does internationally is give us credibility. We're able to talk to trading partners and there is not a country I visit or a trading partner I meet with that is not interested in what we're doing in climate smart agriculture, how we're working to try and help mitigate the impacts of climate change, but also help our agricultural sector adapt to the impacts of climate change. Everyone has an interest in what we're doing, what we're learning. Most countries don't have $3 billion to invest in this. And so it has provided us a real credibility globally."

America’s farmers and ranchers lead the world in producing safe, sustainable food, fiber and fuel for consumers at home and abroad. And that’s why the American Farm Bureau Federation believes agricultural trade is so critical to our national economy and to the economic sustainability of family farms and ranches.

Source: Western Ag Network