Public Policy Positions
Adopted July 30, 2002
Updated August 01, 2013
The U.S. Grains Council recognizes that open, liberalized trade of goods and services is vital to the prosperity of the United States and our trading partners around the world. The U.S. government must develop a clear, consistent trade policy that advances fair, rules-based systems for trade, encourages acceptance of agricultural biotechnology, and responds promptly to changing international market needs.
Value of open, liberalized trade
Trade spurs economic growth, increases efficiency by enhancing competition and encouraging nations to concentrate in areas of comparative advantage, reduces consumer costs, and enhances choice, food quality, and food security for consumers around the world.
Ag exports are vital to U.S. agriculture, economy, balance of payments
The United States possesses the most innovative and productive agricultural production system in the world. Agricultural exports are an important area of U.S. comparative advantage, consistently driving higher profitability for producers and agribusinesses and increased economic activity in rural communities across the country. With the U.S. trade balance chronically in the red, agricultural exports are one of the few sectors providing a major positive contribution.
U.S. policy should continue to embrace the opportunities afforded by continuous trade expansion. The Council advocates adoption of trade policies that advance consistent, transparent, rules-based systems for trade, encourage international acceptance of agricultural biotechnology, and respond swiftly to changing international market needs.
2. Market access
Importance of open, liberalized trade
An effective trade policy must recognize the increasing interdependence of the world's trading nations. U.S. trade policy must acknowledge that the U.S. will not be able to expand exports unless it is willing to promote the liberalization of the world's trading system.
The increasing interdependence of the world's trading nations can help ensure that participating countries are able to achieve food security and a higher standard of living based on the principles of mutual advantage, sanctity of contract, transparency, and trust.
Reduction of trade barriers
The U.S. Grains Council favors the reduction of trade barriers and a level playing field in international trade. U.S. farmers are the most innovative and productive in the world, and U.S. agriculture generates a consistent and large trade surplus.
Science-based standards and food safety/quality regulations v. Non-Tariff Barriers
The United States respects the prerogative of different nations to adopt varying food safety standards and quality assurance protocols. There is a danger, however, that such standards may be arbitrarily manipulated to serve as hidden, non-tariff trade barriers. To avoid discriminatory, trade-distorting effects, standards should be science-based, results oriented, and predicated on objective, transparent methodologies.
Cooperative/harmonized standards – Maximum Residue Levels, mycotoxins, standards
The United States respects the right of every nation to establish a food safety regime suitable to the priorities and sensitivities of its citizens. Inconsistent standards not grounded in science, however, can impede trade and lead to food shortages and significantly increased costs to consumers. The Council calls on producer, business, and consumer groups, as well as governments, to work cooperatively toward harmonized standards and testing methodologies to allow agricultural commodities and value added products to flow smoothly through international markets.
3. U.S. policies
Market development funding (FMD, MAP)
Market Development activities build demand for U.S. feed grains while serving humanitarian and economic needs of countries receiving such benefits. The Council supports the increase of funding for market development activities. Agricultural market development programs should remain within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Grain Quality: Grain and co-product quality and the ability of U.S. suppliers to meet customer expectations and requirements are important to maximizing U.S. exports of feed grains. Grain quality is a contractual matter between the parties involved. The Council promotes and supports an industry wide commitment to the delivery of feed grains into various export channels that considers the needs of the end-user customer and also the compositional value of feed grains and co-products.
Domestic legislation/regulations take into account impact on agricultural exports
Agricultural exports are affected by domestic policy decisions regarding taxation, energy, environmental, land use, infrastructure, animal welfare, and myriad other issues. The U.S. Grains Council calls on federal and state policymakers to ensure that export promotion be carefully and fully weighed in consideration of such issues.
USDA: Adequate funding for FAS; organizational structures that raise profile of international trade
U.S. trade policy must continue to adequately fund governmental agencies, including USDA/FAS that work to facilitate trade and promote U.S. exports. International trade is intensely competitive, and many foreign governments are deeply involved in promoting national exports. While U.S. trade negotiators should seek a general reduction in trade-distorting policies in all countries, the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. trade promotion programs would be counterproductive.
Funding for economic development/agricultural development programs
Trade policy should recognize that future export growth depends on the financial ability of developing countries to import U.S. agricultural products. The Council supports developmental assistance and funding for the International Monetary Fund, Export-Import Bank, World Bank, U.S. AID, the P.L. 480 program and other institutions and programs, provided that their efforts are conducive to expanding U.S. agricultural exports.
Integrity of existing export contracts
Trade policy should respect the integrity of existing export contracts. International trade rests on a foundation of mutual advantage and trust. Sanctity of contract is fundamental to a culture of trust. U.S. statutes, regulations, and administrative actions should be consistent with this principle.
Infrastructure upgrade to meet future export demand – need integrated approach
U.S. economic and export policy must embrace the continuous maintenance, expansion, and technical improvement of a world-class transportation infrastructure. The nation's historic success in the agricultural export sector was founded on a rail and river infrastructure largely constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The maintenance and modernization backlog is severe and growing. Newly developing competitors are leapfrogging U.S. legacy systems and gaining cost advantages that erode U.S. market share.
4. International trade negotiations
Agricultural trade is often hampered by a wide range of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, export subsidies, non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and other trade-distorting government policies. The U.S. should seek to utilize the World Trade Organization as an effective forum for promoting policy reform through negotiation and dispute resolution. When multilateral agreements remain stalled in negotiation or implementation, however, the United States should continue to seek bilateral and regional agreements that expand market opportunities. The Council also supports most-favored nation tariff treatment to all countries.
Sustain WTO forum; enforce WTO commitments
The Council supports the negotiation in the WTO of disciplines on the full range of export credit programs and other government-sponsored measures that influence the financing of agricultural exports. These negotiations must build on the approach adopted in the Uruguay Round, which treated export credits differently from export subsidies. The disciplines should be transparent, clearly understood, implemented equitably and with relative ease, and monitored effectively. A key objective of the negotiation should be to ensure the continuation of viable U.S. export credit programs. The Council also favours non-discriminatory extension of U.S. agricultural export credit programs to all developing countries.
Precedence of WTO/multilateral agreements over private and country regulations
U.S. trade policy should continue to pursue negotiation of WTO and other broad-based multilateral agreements wherever possible. The goal is an open, transparent, efficient international trading system that encourages the efficient allocation of resources, pro-consumer competition, and the achievement of food security through trade, which implies reliable access to the broadest possible market.
Bilateral and regional FTAs that reduce barriers, enhance access, promote trade
When broad-based multilateral agreements remain stalled, U.S. trade policy should aggressively seek bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that reduce trade barriers, enhance access, and expand opportunities for U.S. producers and agribusinesses.
Trans Pacific Partnership
The U.S. Grains Council supports the expansion of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Export credit programs
The U.S. Grains Council supports negotiation in the WTO of disciplines on the full range of export credit programs and other government-sponsored measures that influence the financing of agricultural exports. These negotiations must build on the approach adopted in the Uruguay Round, which treated export credits differently from export subsidies. The disciplines should be transparent, clearly understood, implemented equitably and with relative ease, and monitored effectively. A key objective of the negotiation should be to ensure the continuation of viable U.S. export credit programs consistent with WTO rules and capable of creating a level playing field for U.S. entities vis-à-vis competitor mechanisms.
5. Current issues
Emerging technologies – develop risk-based regulations that encourage new innovations
Agricultural technology is not static. Environmental and other regulations should be risk-based and should accommodate the continuing evolution of new and improved production methods.
Food security through efficient domestic production and open trade
Food security is both a high priority and a growing challenge as global population and food demand continue to expand. International trade is a powerful tool for enhancing the food security, food quality and consumer choice of all peoples. The Council opposes unilateral economic sanctions that restrict or prohibit the sale of U.S. and other agricultural exports in the global marketplace. U.S. trade policy should work to enhance the food security of all nations by pursuing trade liberalization strategies within the World Trade Organization that provide international buyers access to U.S. agricultural products equal to the access enjoyed by domestic customers.
Sustainability – Equivalence of US stewardship laws
U.S. agricultural producers and agribusinesses are committed to good stewardship and sustainable production. Because of its ability to boost yields while reducing soil loss, reducing chemical, fertilizer, and energy inputs, increasing drought tolerance, and minimizing irrigation requirements, agricultural biotechnology makes a significant and growing contribution to sustainability. International protocols on stewardship and sustainability should be science-based, results-driven, technology neutral and accepting of differences in national approaches.
Competition – Meet competition with innovation, marketing and customer servicing, not with trade distorting barriers or subsidies
The U.S. economy is among the most innovative, flexible, and creative in the world, and the U.S. enjoys significant comparative advantages in agricultural production. Competition and innovation are in both consumers' and the national interest. U.S. trade policy should focus on meeting foreign competition through innovation in production, marketing, and customer servicing, not with trade distorting barriers or subsidies.
6. Agricultural Biotechnology
Responsible scientific and regulatory authorities around the world have recognized biotech crops to be wholesome, nutritious, and equal in safety to conventional crops for people, livestock, and the environment.
Biotechnology increases yields, enhances sustainability, and lowers production costs as it allows producers to reduce irrigation, soil loss, and the intensity of chemical application. For all these reasons, an increasing number of countries are accepting biotechnology that enables farmers to meet the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing world population while conserving natural resources.
As part of any worldwide effort to increase food production and quality, the Council recognizes that the acceptance of agricultural biotechnology will serve an important role.
The U.S. Grains Council supports the enforcement of the sanitary/phytosanitary provisions of the World Trade Organizations and guidelines and standards set by the standard-setting organizations recognized by the WTO.
The sanitary and phytosanitary standards of the WTO require biotechnology regulations to be science-based, transparent, predictable, and based on risk. The Council encourages all countries to harmonize national regulatory systems with these accepted international principles.
- Synchronous approval: The Council encourages the U.S. and other countries to proceed as rapidly as possible to develop appropriate standards and regulations with the goal of accepting for import, crops, plants, and commodities derived through biotechnology.
Countries should strive to synchronize existing approval processes for the import of biotech products with that of the United States and other exporting countries in order to avoid trade disruptions.
- Low-level presence policy: Countries should develop and implement policies to assess and manage the risk of low-level presence of biotech events approved in the country of origin but not yet approved in the country of import.
- Labeling of food or feed products: The Council supports the US Food and Drug Administration's regulatory guidance to the feed and food industry on labeling of products derived from agricultural biotechnology. The FDA policy does not require food derived from biotech crops be labeled differently from other food products, unless the modification results in a meaningful difference, such as changing the compositional or nutritional profile of the food or has an identified health or safety risk. Voluntary labeling should not imply that a risk or change in food quality exists.
The Council encourages the U.S. government to vigorously defend U.S.-approved agricultural biotechnology products from unreasonable testing, labelling and other non-tariff trade barriers.
Communication and Stewardship
The U.S. Grains Council promotes and supports the commitment of the value-chain to improved communication on identifying, discussing, and considering efforts to address factors that could negatively affect biotechnology product introduction, stewardship, domestic and international biotechnology regulatory policy, and commodity distribution to domestic and export markets.
The Council recognizes the biotechnology regulatory requirements of importing countries and requests that, prior to commercializing new events, technology providers: perform a market assessment based upon input from all segments of the downstream value-chain for the specific crop; obtain appropriate market authorizations for each regulated biotechnology product in major U.S. export markets with functioning regulatory systems; and develop detection methods for growers, grain producers, processors and buyers.