Senate panel hears farmers' international trade troubles
During a June 9 hearing of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade, representatives from the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Peanut Federation (USPF) detailed how international trade practices – in both imports and exports - are affecting Georgia farmers. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock chairs the subcommittee.
In his opening statement, Sen. Warnock expressed concern that “Our trade policies are leaving certain sectors behind, including Georgia’s seasonal fruit and vegetable farmers. A steep increase in cheap imports have made it difficult for Georgia’s produce farmers to compete in the market.”
UGA Professor of Agricultural & Applied Economics Dr. Gopi Munisamy discussed pressures on U.S. fruit and produce growers from imports of competing commodities. Testifying on behalf of the USPF, Karla Thompson of Mitchell County noted the effects expanded aflatoxin testing requirements the European Union and the United Kingdom have imposed on peanuts from the U.S., as well as increased input costs and supply chain challenges are having.
In her testimony, Thompson noted that the EU, and now UK, select 20% of U.S. shipments (containers) for aflatoxin testing and test 100% of the selected peanuts. In contrast, the EU and UK only select 10% of shipments from China and 5% of shipments from Argentina.
“These new requirements for the U.S. are far more extensive than those required of our competitors in the EU and are costing the U.S. peanut industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Thompson said.
Dr. Munisamy highlighted the ever-increasing import levels that drive prices lower for all producers. He noted a large trade imbalance in fruits and vegetables, where the value of imported produce triples the value of U.S. exports of those products.
Dr. Munisamy tied his comments back to recent farm visits with the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and UGA College of Agriculture Dean Nick Place.
“I found a common theme across the dozen produce farms we visited: Hard-working families – husband and wife, grandpa and granddaughter, entire families – challenged by imports, input costs, and labor issues. A major question on their agenda is, ‘How can we compete with the flood of both in-season and off-season Mexican and South American produce in our markets?’”
The subcommittee also heard from representatives from wheat and dairy sectors.
A video stream of the hearing, as well as all written testimony, can be found here.