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Trade issues front and center for administration

Producers are concerned about what will happen if they are unable to plant a crop, especially when it comes to trade mitigation payments.

China, Mexico and Canada remain among the largest customers for U.S. agricultural commodities. Thus, any government actions that affect trade with those countries are of utmost importance to producers.

That’s why Stephen Vaden, USDA general counsel, addressed U.S. relationships with each of those countries during his keynote address to the Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference in Memphis, Tenn., June 7.

In the case of China, he said, representatives of that country “reneged” on several points of an agreement U.S. and Chinese officials were attempting to hammer out to end the tariff war that has cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars in sales of soybeans, cotton and other commodities since 2018.

“As you know, no agreement is ever final until all the negotiations have been completed,” he said. “Chinese representatives reneged on some parts of an agreement that we thought was nearly in reach and took us back to a position that was further back than that.

“Because of that the president was determined to show China he would not back down, and he engaged in further trade tariffs against them.”

In the case of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or NAFTA 2.0, the administration’s position is that Congress should ratify the agreement as soon as possible.

Vaden said many producers are concerned about what will happen if they are unable to plant a crop due to adverse weather conditions in 2019, especially when it comes to the trade mitigation payments announced by the president.

“The secretary (of agriculture) has been very clear on this issue,” said Vaden. “You should put the idea of receiving a payment aside, and, if it makes more sense for you to take your prevented planting insurance, then that’s what you should do. If it makes more sense to plant your crop that’s what you should do.

“Your goal should be to do what’s best for your operation and not worry about harvesting the government payment.”

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