Three U.S. free trade deals pending since 2008 got little boost from the Obama Administration at USDA’s Annual Ag Outlook Forum this past week.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk stressed President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports over five-years - but told hundreds of farm leaders in D.C. the focus will be on getting trading partners to comply with existing agreements and to end non-tariff trade barriers - like those after H1N1. As for long-pending free trade deals key for agriculture. Kirk says the Korean, Panamanian, and Columbian agreements have potentially billion dollar markets for our agricultural exports if we can get those issues addressed and get them into a shape that President Obama can submit them to Congress.
The American Farm Bureau puts the figure at three-billion when all three deals are fully implemented - but Obama and his officials have repeatedly declined to set a timetable for action. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack rebuffed any notion the White House has backed away from the FTAs there’s no question wwe’re supportive of this effort,it is still in the process of being worked through. there it is still some labor issues in a couple if them that have to be addressed and discussed, Panama in particular. There is an over riding issue in the terms of the Columbian situation, so those have to be worked through.
Vilsack insisted the Administration’s using a multi-part trade strategy of enforcement, technical help, marketing and new trade deals. But USTR Kirk stressed going after trade offenders like China, Russia and the EU first - and even issuing a new report this spring on markets unfairly keeping out U.S. goods.
Meantime - USDA Economist Joe Glauber said with global economic conditions improving - U.S. beef and pork exports should rise nine-percent this year - with meat prices higher - except for broilers - but grain and soybean prices generally, slightly lower. As for major crop plantings. Glauber estimates that soybean area for 2010 is expected to pull a mere 500,000 acres from last year to 77 million acres as improved returns for corn and rotational considerations boost corn plantings. Corn plantings are expected to rise 2.5 million acres from last year to 89 million, the highest level since 2007.
But winter wheat seeded area - at 37.1-million acres - is down more than six-million acres - and is the lowest level since 1913. The late row crop harvest and wet weather delayed winter wheat plantings in most states last fall.
Glauber says - partly offsetting the decline - is an expected increase in spring wheat in the Northern Plains.