NORMAL, Ill. — Farmers are taking some of the brunt of retaliation for President Donald Trump’s tough trade policies now, but it will pay off, said Ken Isley, administrator for the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service.
He told farmers attending the Illinois Farm Bureau Farm’s annual Income and Innovations Conference on Aug. 1 that details are being worked out for the $12 billion aid package to help farmers weather the impact trade issues are having on them. Details will be announced later this month, he said.
Isley said the call of farmers for “trade not aid” is being heard. The aid to farmers is temporary, he said, and the USDA is committed to trade long-term.
He said he expected North America Free Trade Agreement issues with Canada and Mexico to be worked out in the near future. There are mostly “technical” details with Mexico, he said. With Canada, sticking points on milk and wheat still need to be resolved, he added.
But issues with China will take longer.
“With China, we have to be more patient. There is more in store,” Isley said.
The U.S. is working on 42 identified “unfair trade practices,” he said.
If China were to stop buying soybeans from the United States entirely, “we would survive,” Isley said in answer to a farmer’s question. There is no one market that could replace it, and it will take time finding many other market opportunities, he said.
Isley, who grew up in rural Iowa, studied agricultural business at Iowa State University and law at the University of Iowa, practiced law in Peoria, Ill., for a time and had a long career with DowDuPont before joining the USDA in April. He was one of the guest speakers at the Farm Bureau conference in Normal that focused on trade issues.
Farmers asked multiple questions of a variety of speakers trying to get a better understanding of how the ongoing trade situation will affect their marketing plans and profitability now and in the future.
Isley acknowledged that there is concern about the long-term effects of Trump pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership early in his presidency.
“Japan is a clear target,” he said, for future trade agreements.
There was more than just concern, but anger when Trump pulled out of the TPP, said Jim Wiesemeyer, Washington policy analyst for ProFarmer.
Wiesemeyer said he expects there will be a “NAFTA 2.0” this year. Trump called NAFTA the worst trade agreement for the U.S. ever, but Wiesemeyer said that with a little change, he expects Trump will call it the best trade agreement ever.
He said much of Trump’s anger about trade is directed towards China’s trade practices including “outright thievery” of intellectual properties.
“We never know which Trump we will get on any given day or any given hour. He is variable,” Wiesemeyer told the audience. “Trump is not about diplomacy. That’s just not him. He’s not really a politician. He wants to get things done. He’s trying to change the unchangeable.”
“Time and time again, his bark is worse than bite” and his negotiating style “to bluster” then to “compromise,” Wiesemeyer said.
Gregory Hanes, vice president of international programs at the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP was a setback for efforts to increase export markets.
Hanes said a key part of the United States’ success in exporting meat is finding markets for cuts that are less preferable to American palettes. He said that may include specific cuts for the Korean food truck market, a market where the U.S. displaced Australia. It also includes liver, intestine, beef tongue and other products popular in other cultures, Hanes said.
He said his group’s goal to increase U.S. exports of beef, lamb and pork includes developing new markets, displacing other countries competing for the same markets, and defending the United States’ current market share.