By Ben Conner, USW Deputy Director of Policy
A professor once told me this about achieving goals: “If you don’t write it down, it will never happen.” On behalf of the farmers we represent, USW takes a similar approach to our policy priorities: we write them down for the board to review every year. That happened again last week at the USW Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC.
USW divides policy goals into three general categories: the World Trade Organization (WTO), free trade agreements (FTAs) and U.S. government policies. USW priorities in all three categories reflect our mission, which is ultimately to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.
The WTO category includes both trade enforcement and negotiations. A major policy priority is to ensure that wheat-producing countries follow WTO rules. Right now, a number of major developing countries are blatantly ignoring those rules, costing U.S. farmers in the form of lower exports and prices, and hurting their overseas customers in the form of more expensive domestic supplies. Studies conducted for USW estimated U.S. wheat farmers are losing more than $1 billion in revenue from domestic support policies in just four countries: China, Turkey, Brazil and India. Some of those countries have blatantly ignored WTO import rules in order to protect domestic wheat sectors. That is unacceptable and underscores the need to enforce past trade commitments. Similarly, our board supports negotiations through the WTO that create a more level playing field, but opposes rules that weaken current disciplines in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture or in continued negotiations under the failed Doha framework.
Free Trade Agreements are another priority. If the WTO negotiations remain at an impasse, aggressive market access gains will only come through bilateral regional sectoral trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is now signed and, hopefully, will soon be ratified by legislatures including the U.S. Congress. Beyond that, the wheat industry is hoping for rapid TPP expansion to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well as to new FTA opportunities.
Finally, U.S. government policies also affect U.S. wheat export potential. One of our priorities is on-going funding for the beneficial federal market promotion programs that — along with investment from state wheat commissions — help organizations like USW provide valuable services and information to customers around the world. USW also supports an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Now that we have written our 2016 Policy Priorities, it is time to make it happen. We are passionate about the profitability of farmers and their overseas customers, so we will be working hard to remove the policy obstacles in the way.