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Thune: President Biden’s Trade Policies Are Failing Farmers and Ranchers

“The administration is not only forfeiting opportunities for American leadership, it’s harming American businesses, farms, and ranches that look to trade as a way to grow.”

March 21, 2024

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the Biden administration’s failure to expand market access and prioritize new trade opportunities for farmers and ranchers. Thune noted that the administration’s unambitious agenda is harming American agriculture, which is already facing economic headwinds, declining exports, and diminishing market access.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, this week we celebrate National Agriculture Week.

“It’s a time to celebrate America’s farmers and ranchers – the hardworking men and women who fill America’s supermarkets and Americans’ dinner plates.

“Much of daily life here in the United States depends on the food, fuel, and fiber that America’s farms and ranches produce.

“And this week in particular, we thank those who do the hard work of feeding America – and the world.

“Mr. President, there are a lot of factors that go into a farm or ranch’s success.

“Today, I want to talk about just one of those factors that affects a lot of farms and ranches: trade.

“Trade is critical to the continued success of American agriculture.

“One in four acres on U.S. farms is planted to be exported to a foreign market, and exports are responsible for a fifth of U.S. farm revenue.

“For the 2023 marketing year, American farmers planted nearly 70 million acres of major crops to supply international markets.

“But, Mr. President, we have a problem.

“Thanks in large part to the Biden administration’s almost complete inaction on trade, U.S. agriculture exports are declining.

“Last year, the United States posted a $16.6 billion agricultural trade deficit.

“$16.6 billion.

“And that trade deficit is projected to be nearly twice as large this year.

“Mr. President, this would be bad enough on its own, but it’s particularly distressing at a time of economic uncertainty for a lot of farmers and ranchers.

“Like so many other Americans, farmers and ranchers have suffered under President Biden’s inflation crisis.

“Net farm income is expected to see its largest two-year drop in 40 years.

“And we should be doing whatever we can to reverse this trend and help farmers and ranchers succeed.

“And a good place to start would be opening new markets for American agriculture producers.

“Mr. President, the sorry state of agriculture trade is emblematic of the Biden administration’s generally unambitious trade agenda.

“The president made it clear early on that trade would not be high on his agenda.

“And unfortunately he’s lived up to that.

“Increased market access, long a priority of the United States, has almost completely dropped off the radar under President Biden.

“The U.S. trade representative has openly said that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – which contains one of the few trade initiatives the administration has actually undertaken – was in fact designed not to include tariff reduction.

“In other words, the Biden administration deliberately chose not to pursue a key market-opening measure.

“And now the Biden administration has put even this half-hearted trade initiative on hold, declining to move forward with the trade portion of the Indo-Pacific agreement.

“A year ago, I came to the floor to discuss my bipartisan bill to kickstart negotiations on a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

“You would think that a free trade agreement with one of our oldest allies and largest trading partners would be a no-brainer.

“But the administration has punted on this, too.

“On digital trade, an area where the United States has historically been a leader and in which we should continue to lead, the Biden administration is pulling back.

Last fall, the U.S. trade representative abandoned longstanding U.S. policy on digital trade at the World Trade Organization, a move that risks letting China take our place in writing rules for a major sector of the global economy.

“Mr. President, the United States is currently negotiating zero new free trade agreements.

“But while the Biden administration keeps America on the sidelines, other countries are building up their trading portfolios.

“The European Union is negotiating new free trade agreements.

“So is the United Kingdom.

“And China is aggressively working to expand its trading network.

“The Biden administration’s failure on trade is putting our country at a competitive disadvantage.

“The administration is not only forfeiting opportunities for American leadership, it’s harming American businesses, farms, and ranches that look to trade as a way to grow.

“Earlier this week, I joined Senator Blackburn and other senators in a letter to the president urging the administration to uphold America’s longstanding leadership on digital trade.

“And last week, I led a group of Republican senators urging the administration to work on expanding export opportunities for American agriculture.

“Mr. President, if we want American farmers, ranchers, and business owners to succeed in the global economy, trade needs to be a priority.

“And I will continue to do everything I can to urge the Biden administration to get off the sidelines on trade and start opening up new opportunities for American producers.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”