WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on the administration’s trade agenda, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today called on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to proactively pursue new markets for agriculture producers who continue to suffer with persistent low prices and surpluses.
For Senator Roberts’ full remarks go here.
“In the last year, the United States has lost its title as a reliable supplier,” Roberts said. “We’ve seen Mexico turn to Argentina to purchase wheat and Brazil for corn. These should be sales with the U.S.—not other countries. In case you were not aware, we still have grain on the ground in Kansas.”
Roberts gave a “farm report” outlining difficulties facing Kansas farmers reading from an Associated Press summary of crop conditions for the week ending Sunday: “The latest government crop report estimates that more than half of the winter wheat crop in Kansas is in poor or very poor condition,” Roberts said. “The National Agriculture Statistics Service reported Mondaythat 17 percent of the Kansas wheat is in very poor condition with another 38 percent is rated as poor. About 34 percent is rated as fair with just 10 percent in good and 1 percent in excellent condition. That assessment comes at the same time that topsoil moisture supplies were rated as short or very short across 81 percent of the state.”
Roberts quoted Ray Starling, special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance who said, “To the extent that other countries want to punish our farmers for insistence on free and reciprocal trade, then obviously we plan to examine that on a case-by-case basis, as those threats materialize. We will do everything within our power to protect our farmers from that sort of egregious behavior.”
Roberts went on to examine U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer’s similar remarks before the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday where Lighthizer said, “You have to think about counter-retaliation, you have to think about programs for farmers who are in this situation. I mean there’s a lot of things that are outside of my realm that have to be considered.”
Roberts said, “Ambassador Lighthizer, my message to you is simple: in 2018, USTR’s trade agenda must include a focus on returning the United States to reliable supplier status, and USTR must actively pursue new markets to sell our products.”
Senator Roberts is also actively working on the 2018 farm bill, which will strive to provide certainty to farmers and producers across all agricultural sectors and regions of the country. During field hearings held earlier this Congress, farmers testified about the need for continued strong export opportunities as well as business certainty from regulatory reform.
Senator Roberts is an outspoken advocate for increasing access to global markets for America’s farmers and ranchers. He is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.