Strong support for trade agreements that open market access, for lifting the embargo on Cuba, and for eliminating export state trading monopolies are among the trade policy priorities submitted recently by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to President Obama's transition team at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). USW is the wheat industry's export market development organization, funded by producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).
"American wheat exports generated an estimated $11 billion in revenue to our industry last year," says Rebecca Bratter, USW director of policy. "This year, farmgate wheat prices have fallen while production costs have increased, but we still need to export about half the wheat we grow. In that situation, it is even more important that President Obama's trade officials understand where wheat producers stand."
A summary of the priorities submitted to the USTR transition team include:
• Supporting eventual passage of a successful World Trade Organization Doha round agreement as the best opportunity for increased market access and export growth, as long as U.S. agriculture receives reciprocal market access. USW noted that ratification of pending free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama will provide immediate duty-free access for U.S. wheat. In addition, USW called for renewal of Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority or TPA.
• Calling for an end to the trade and travel embargo with Cuba to improve trade flows and expand U.S. wheat exports. While U.S./Cuba wheat trade continues, the embargo complicates transactions and the U.S. is losing market share to other wheat exporting nations that have open trade relations with Cuba.
• Eliminating the trade-distorting, monopoly tactics of export state trading enterprises such as the Canadian Wheat Board.
• Encouraging renewed emphasis on the proven success of direct U.S. food grain donations and monetization practices as opposed to cash donations for the purchase of local and regional food commodities. USW noted that sufficient information is not yet available to determine if cash aid is an effective means of feeding more of the world’s hungry and U.S. agriculture must be able to participate in studies designed to make that determination.
• Supporting the development of harmonized global standards for the import of genetically modified organisms, in anticipation of the eventual development of biotechnology traits in wheat.
• Encouraging continued funding of the very successful USDA/FAS market development programs at current or increased levels.
The report, titled "U.S. Wheat Industry Policy Priorities 2009" is posted on the USW Web site . In addition, USW submits an annual "National Trade Estimate Report," which is also posted on the USW Web site, to the USTR office.
U.S. Wheat Associates is the industry’s market development organization working in 90 countries on behalf of America's wheat producers. The activities of U.S. Wheat Associates are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org  or contact your state wheat commission.