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U.S. trade representative gives trade update at NASDA conference

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Agricultural commissioners, secretaries and directors from around the nation gathered to discuss pressing agricultural and food policy issues with federal agencies, congressional leaders and industry stakeholders in Washington, D.C. at the 2024 National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Winter Policy Conference, held Feb. 4-7.

Founded in 1916, NASDA is a leading problem solver on the nation’s most important agricultural issues and speaks on behalf of all 50 states and four territories. NASDA is a nonpartisan association working to influence policy beneficial for all regions, people and environments.

Trade update

U.S. Chief Agriculture Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Doug McKalip provided participants with an update on the strength of the U.S. trade situation.

Exports are an essential part of the agriculture industry, and since U.S. producers feed the world, there needs to be strong trade relationships to do it.

“Over the past few years, we have seen amazing export numbers for U.S. agriculture,” McKalip stated. “While challenges facing exports do exist, USTR is being proactive about building upon existing relationships and creating new relationships across the globe.” 

He further noted, “We recognize wins for American farmers are also wins for rural communities as a whole, creating a more fair and equitable economy for all from the bottom up and middle out. This means ensuring the benefits of trade make it to the farm gate and U.S. farmers, ranchers, producers and exporters compete on a level playing field.”

“There is a delicate balancing act between growing new partnerships, nurturing existing ones and holding trade partners to our agreements,” he continued. “We have been heavily engaged with India and Africa removing challenges of trade and had a successful year.”

McKalip noted in Africa there are over 30 countries expressing interest in buying U.S. agricultural products.

“India agreed to remove retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. agricultural products, including chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnuts and apples, among other products,” he added. “The removal of the retaliatory tariffs will restore market opportunities for these U.S. products, many of which are produced on small and family-owned farming operations.”

Updates continue

McKalip said, in 2023, countries dropped a dozen tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, and more than 30 countries removed barriers to trade.

But, McKalip also acknowledged U.S. farm exports are concentrated in a few row crops, in which only four or five countries make up 60 percent of the export market.

He went on to highlight U.S. efforts to expand foreign markets for American beef, facing unscientific trade barriers.

“For example, Japan has greatly expanded their access for our products, and this is a $2.3 billion market for U.S. beef,” he stated. “Over the course of the past year, we were able to save about $6 billion by getting countries to remove regulatory hurdles, and this makes a big difference for beef exporters, while keeping trade moving.”

The U.S. trade dispute with Mexico over genetically modified (GM) corn is expected to be resolved by the end of this year, McKalip announced. 

The U.S. is currently disputing Mexico’s ban on GM corn for human consumption, saying it violates GM provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Mexico published a presidential decree in 2020 which said the country would ban GM corn from human diets, arguing it threatens the country’s native corn varieties and could pose a threat to human health.

In August, the U.S. requested a dispute panel under the North American trade pact, arguing the Mexican decree is not based on science and violates its trade commitments.

“We need to stick to the science and not allow this to become a political issue,” he commented.

He credited farmers with driving record export values over the last two years, totaling nearly $200 billion, and record farm income for the past three years.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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