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09 Oct 2017


IFA in Brussels

President Joe Healy and Liam MacHale, IFA Director of European Affairs travelled to Washington DC to attend the bi-annual EU-North America Agriculture Conference and availed of the opportunity to meet with representatives of the US Department of Agriculture, the Irish Agricultural Attache, the Irish Ambassador and the EU Representation in the US.

EU North America Agriculture Conference

The US Farm Bureau hosted this year’s event with President Zippy Duvall (Georgia) highlighting 3 priority areas for Farm Bureau: 1. Shortage of US farm labour 2. Over regulation (and a growing lack of connection to the land by policy makers) 3. Trade agenda – maintenance of NAFTA and Korea deals.

The new Farm Bill will be introduced in 2018 with evaluation of the 2014 Farm Bill ongoing. The current Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue (also from Georgia), a strong believer in science, is seeking to remove barriers in order to create new jobs and wealth in rural America. Access to new technologies was regarded as key by the Farm Bureau.

COPA President Joachim Rukwied spoke on CAP which ‘must deliver a fair standard of living’ as EU famer income had fallen 20% in the last 4 years. Steps needed to be taken to improve resilience and in relation to Food Chain, improved collection of data on margins and price transmission were needed.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture sought their Government’s support to improve the role of agriculture in the economy and hoped to develop a national food strategy admitting this would require a whole Government approach. They targeted $75bn of agri-food exports by 2025. In relation to NAFTA ($56bn of reciprocal trade), the US proposal is a concern to the Canadians and the next round of talks continues week of Oct 9th in Washington.

Dr. Seth Mayer of USDA World Agriculture Outlook Board explained how that within 5 years of the US concluding a trade deal, agriculture exports had increased to those respective markets. China is the US’s top destination with 50 USDA personnel working on building trade with this country.

Brian Klippenstein, USDA Senior Advisor to the Agriculture Secretary argued that with a growing urban population, famers who are not traditionally good at self promotion, needed to stand up more. The rate of farm productivity needed to improve and the US sought to lead the world in safe food production.

Jay Vroom, CEO of Croplife spoke of the failure of plant protection companies to communicate better with society and referred to a Food Inclusion Label (‘food grown using modern technology’.)

Mace Thornton, Director of Communications at American Farm Bureau, commented that companies were dictating their sustainability agenda on the consumers and that Farming Associations need to get more involved in the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform. 

Meeting with Charles Parrott, USDA Admin Services

The publication of daily market prices is one of the key features of the Marketing News publication issued by the USDA on a daily basis. This is a level of transparency not available in Europe but worthwhile pursuing. Mr. Parrott viewed grass-fed beef as having now moved beyond niche though consumers did not have an issue with the fact that this was produced with the benefit of hormones. Indeed this beef was available at weekend farmers’ markets within DC ($17.50/llb or  €32.70/kg for ribeye). The organic sector is growing significantly. The purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon was notable for the immediate fall in prices. IFA impressed their hope that market access for Irish lamb would be granted soon now that the relevant inspections had been completed. On Trade, the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue had revised the structure of USDA in order to promote increased trade.

Discussion with EU Delegation to the US

Caroline Vicini, Deputy Head of Mission to the US described the process of appointment of key US department officials as slow and many Presidential electoral promises have yet to make their way through Congress. The US is reaching out to engage with US State level leaders and Corporations in order to build EU support.

Damien Levie, EU Trade Attache to the US, felt that TPP was positive for the US despite the fact that they withdrew from the negotiation. Despite the US focus on manufacturing jobs the steel industry has lost 400,000 jobs since the 1970’s notwithstanding increased production. The US views NAFTA as a bad deal as a trade deficit exists with Mexico. The US administration is interested in relaunching TTIP although currently preoccupied with NAFTA and Korean deals.

Jesús Zorilla Torras, EU Ag Attache to the US, indicated that EU-US trade issues included GI’s and equivalence of standards in addition to the prohibition of hormones. The EU does not foresee major changes in the 2018 US Farm Bill but that support for the milk program might be increased.

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