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VIDEO: Cattlemen see trade as top issue; Japan is big export prize in TPP

MINOT, N.D. -- Restoring beef trade with Japan and China is needed to help snap U.S. markets out of the doldrums, officials said Sept. 23 at the North Dakota Stockmen's Association annual meeting in Minot.

Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said trade and market volatility are top concerns for ranchers this year. Photo taken at the group's annual meeting on Sept. 23, 2016, in Minot, N.D. Forum News Service/Mikkel Pates
Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said trade and market volatility are top concerns for ranchers this year. Photo by Mikkel Pates, Agweek

MINOT, N.D. - Restoring beef trade with Japan and China is needed to help snap U.S. markets out of the doldrums, officials said Sept. 23 at the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association annual meeting in Minot.

Tracy Brunner, a producer from Ramona, Kans., and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said expanding markets is the primary effort of the organization. “We are in a situation of growing supplies of meat and beef in this country. The nation’s cattle herd is expanding, so we need markets.”

He added, “With the expanding middle class around the globe, we want access to those lucrative markets that want American beef.”

$400K a day Specifically, the NCBA supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would give the U.S. a level playing field with the 12 countries in the proposed pact.

“Especially Japan,” Brunner said. “We are currently at a disadvantage to Australia going into Japan. We are losing $400,000 of beef sales every day to Australia into the Japanese market. In 2015, American producers lost $300 million in beef sales due to the tariff rate disparity that exists.”

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Australia and Japan have a bilateral trade agreement. “TPP would circumvent that and bring Australia, the United States and Japan under the same rules,” he said. It would reduce the current tariff rate that American beef producers face to 9 percent during the life of the agreement, down from the current 38 percent.

Another key issue is the opening of the Chinese market for beef. China has been officially closed to American beef for 13 years with the instance of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. China has just announced the ban will be lifted and the market will be open to U.S. product.

“That’s a great first step,”  Brunner said. “The real details are the need for export certification rules. Just how will American beef qualify for import into China.” The NCBA will press the federal government for quick establishment of those rules.

“We believe that the TPP is very good for the American economy, and is especially good for American agriculture that is falling on hard times,” he said. “We have expanding supplies of not only grain products but meat as well.”

TPP for America “We are very committed to working with whomever in the next administration going forward,” Brunner said, adding, “We are very interested in the congressional elections, that we maintain a voice in the next Congress.”

In their first presidential debate with each other, both Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton claimed to oppose the TPP in its current form, on grounds it would hurt American workers, although Trump insisted that Clinton would support it as president, regardless of what she says now.

While Brunner said environmental issues and aggressive regulation by the current administration are also an issue to the NCBA.

“I can’t stop thinking of the increasing supplies and need for expanded markets,” he said. “Trade is our top priority this year. We want the TPP, want to continue to urge access to Chinese markets. We have growing supplies; we need growing markets.”

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Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the NDSA, said the organization passed resolutions in six policy areas, heading toward the 2017 North Dakota State Legislature in January. “Certainly, the budget situation will be an issue of major focus,” she said.

Japan big prize

Ellingson said the “biggest prize would be Japan.” Japan is usually the No. 1 importer of U.S. beef in terms of value, even with the 38.5 percent tariff. That would put the U.S. on par with Australia. She thinks the best shot at passing TPP is in a lame duck session of Congress.

“Certainly there are opportunities to be had for the benefit of North Dakota beef producers and almost all ag commodities,” Ellingson said.

Brunner said trade is the top policy issue, regardless of issues like the NCBA has been active on private property rights, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule, and preventing the import of beef or animals from countries that aren’t cleared.

Ellingson said the state has a representative on a national working group to understand the volatility in cattle markets, with an eye toward removing the “those peaks and valleys so there is a more stable markets.” Markets are what keep most producers awake at night, she said.

Jason Schmidt of Medina, N.D., a former North Dakota Stockmen's Association president, makes a point during policy debates while his daughter, Madelyn, listens. Photo taken at the group's annual meeting on Sept. 23, 2016, in Minot, N.D. Forum News Service/Mikkel Pates
Jason Schmidt of Medina, N.D., a former North Dakota Stockmen's Association president, makes a point during policy debates while his daughter, Madelyn, listens. Photo by Mikkel Pates, Agweek

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