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USDA Chiefs Rally for USMCA   09/19 16:43

   Perdue Confirms Chinese Farm Visits During Bipartisan Event on USMCA 

   While former U.S. Agriculture Department secretaries joined Secretary Sonny 
Perdue to talk about USMCA, Perdue also confirmed reports that Chinese 
delegates here for trade talks will visit some U.S. farms before returning to 
China. Perdue said he sees that as a gesture of good will.

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

   WASHINGTON (DTN) -- At least part of China's trade team negotiating in 
Washington, D.C., this week will take some time to visit U.S. farms, 
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed Thursday. 

   Perdue was asked about the farm visits at a press event with three of his 
predecessors to champion the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

   Perdue said he did not know what commodities the Chinese delegation is 
interested in seeing. 

   "That's really up to China," he said. "Obviously, we know that their pork 
herd has been decimated by African swine fever and they are in the market 
really aggressively with pork, swine and soybeans at this time. We hope that 
goes to other issues. They know our shopping list, and we hope they come and 
are prepared. We're glad the conversations are continuing and we hope they will 
be fruitful."

   CNBC reported the Chinese delegates will visit farms near Bozeman, Montana, 
and Omaha.

   "I think they want to see the production of agriculture," Perdue said of the 
visits. "And I think they are trying to build good will, and we welcome that."

   Perdue stood with former agriculture secretaries John Block, who served 
under President Ronald Reagan; Dan Glickman, who served under President Bill 
Clinton; and Tom Vilsack, who served under President Barack Obama. Other former 
secretaries joined a letter to encourage Congress to vote on the USMCA.

   Vilsack said he thinks if there is any one issue upon which all secretaries 
of agriculture can agree, it's the importance of trade to American agriculture, 
as he cited that roughly 30% of all farm production ultimately ends up exported.

   Agriculture has been one industry putting a full-court press on Congress to 
pass USMCA. Besides the secretaries holding their event on Thursday, a 
farmer-led event last week also stressed the importance of getting the trade 
deal done.

   Asked if the secretaries were worried about the prospects for USMCA, Perdue 
said, "I wouldn't say we are worried. We're encouraging Congress to understand 
the cross-party, cross-generational (group) of people who have been in this 
position (who) feel this is a good deal."

   Vilsack, now president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said USMCA 
will eliminate a dairy pricing scheme in Canada that has discriminated against 
U.S. dairy farmers.

   "This has certainly caused our dairy producers a lot of heartburn and 
lowered the price of powdered products," Vilsack said.

   For dairy, USMCA translates into about $300 million more in additional 
sales. For now, the U.S. has been able to maintain its percentage of sales to 
Mexico despite Europe already having a new trade agreement with Mexico that 
specifies certain cheeses or other products must maintain geographical 
indicators. A side agreement to the trade deal will ensure U.S. exporters won't 
lose sales of commonly named cheese products. Where U.S. dairy exports have 
been hurt in such a fashion is Japan because other competitors have trade 
agreements there.

   "Our Mexican market is still in good shape," Vilsack said. "The challenge, 
though, is if we don't get this agreement through, we will still face a very 
closed market in Canada."

   Glickman credited Perdue for "doing his best to ensure farmers have access 
to world markets" in the midst of global trade battles and keeping President 
Donald Trump from withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement 
while trade talks continued.

   Glickman stressed USMCA is important for national security given that it 
involves border countries.

   "We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" when it comes to a trade 
deal, Glickman said.

   Block said USMCA could provide momentum for trade deals with Japan and 
possibly China as well.

   "NAFTA was good, but this is much better," Block said. "USMCA is better, we 
all know it is better. It's better for farmers. It's better for labor and for 
business. Get it done and let's move on to the next."

   Besides the letter from the secretaries, the National Association of State 
Departments of Agriculture also sent a letter to congressional leaders on 
Thursday urging Congress to vote on USMCA.

   Chris Clayton can be reached at

   Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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