On Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas), ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and other members of the committee joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an executive roundtable on U.S. agricultural trade policy.
Conaway appreciated the opportunity to have Ligthizer and Perdue meet with the committee. “Given that agriculture is one of the few areas where the U.S. enjoys a positive balance of trade, we’re eager to work together to continue building on our hard-fought gains,” Conaway said.
He added that it was also encouraging to hear Lighthizer express the importance of holding our trading partners accountable. “I look forward to working with him and Secretary Perdue to secure even better deals for America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters,” Conaway said.
Peterson said the discussion provided an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the Trump Administration’s plans for agricultural trade. “We need to ensure that agriculture is treated fairly in any future trade deals,” said Peterson, who has been a critic of the final outcomes of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the benefits the Trans-Pacific Partnership promised. “I take both Secretary Perdue and Ambassador Lighthizer at their word that any trade deals will only expand agriculture exports and not take them backward,” Peterson said.
While testifying before the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee earlier in the day, Perdue defended the Administration’s trade policy and promised that he wants to be "held accountable. You’re not going to see exports decrease.”
Perdue again reiterated the new mantra he has been telling producers: “You grow it, and we’ll sell it.”
Perdue added that the creation of the new undersecretary for trade at USDA, along with working with President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Ambassador Lighthizer and leadership on Capitol Hill, will help open up new markets and expand existing ones, “because where American agricultural products can compete on a level playing field, they will succeed and lead the way."
Lighthizer is no stranger to agricultural trade issues and reiterated before the roundtable the important role farmers play. “America’s farmers and ranchers are second to none, and they have my commitment to fight unfair trade practices and grow more export opportunities. From family farms to food and beverage manufacturing jobs, truly free and fair agricultural trade raises wages and fuels our economy, and I look forward to continuing the conversation and building upon our discussions today,” Lighthizer said.