LINCOLN, NEB. – The United States must tell the world it is open for business when it comes to agricultural trade. That was the message of Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) President Mark McHargue when he testified before House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, April 18. The hearing, Countering China’s Trade and Investment Agenda: Opportunities for American Leadership, focused on the current state of the trade relationship between the United States and China.
“China remains a vital market for Nebraska goods as a consistent top three market for Nebraska products, year in and year out. At the same time, America’s and Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are aware and concerned about the current geopolitical and national security concerns that exist between our nations,” said McHargue.
According to analysis by NEFB using data from the United States Department of Agriculture, prior to 2018, Nebraska agricultural exports to China ranged from $936 million to $1.045 billion and generally equated to 15 percent of Nebraska’s total agricultural exports. That equates to roughly $19,300 per farm in Nebraska. Following substantial declines in 2018 and 2019, NEFB’s analysis showed farmers and ranchers saw substantial growth return due to the U.S.-China Phase 1 Trade Agreement. In 2020, China imported approximately $28.7 billion worth of U.S. agriculture and food products and $35.6 billion in 2021. In 2022, a new record of $40.8 billion worth of U.S. agricultural and food products was exported into China, equating to $55,790 per farm and ranch in Nebraska.
“Farmers and ranchers have the same geopolitical, national security, copyright, and trade law concerns that many elected officials and industries have. But, given China’s role as a significant consumer of raw U.S. commodities, whether we like it or not, China is an important customer. We need them and they need us,” said McHargue.
McHargue also noted in his testimony that Nebraska is “The Beef State” as the cattle sector remains the largest portion of Nebraska’s agricultural industry. NEFB analysis shows Nebraska is among the top beef exporting states to China in the U.S. However, China continues to make significant investments in other countries such as Brazil to move away from their dependence on U.S. agricultural and food products. According to NEFB analysis, China’s ag exports from all destinations topped $216.9 billion in 2022, an increase of 5.5 percent, or $11.4 billion, from the year before. McHargue called on the Biden administration to lessen barriers and improve trade relations with China.
“Given everything happening in the world today, the United States should be actively working each and every day to diversify our trading partners. While farmers and ranchers could talk all day about the problems we have with taxes or new regulations, the biggest disappointment we have with the Biden administration has been their nonexistent efforts to find new trading partners and pursue negotiations on any new free trade agreements,” said McHargue.
During the hearing, McHargue said the U.S. needs to work to ensure our national security and hold China accountable to WTO trade obligations, but also must make certain the U.S. doesn’t continue to lose access to a vital market. Farm Bureau also pushed for the need to rejoin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and reengaging with the UK as well as Kenya on free trade agreements.
Nebraska Farm Bureau thanks the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade and Subcommittee Chair Adrian Smith (R-NE) for the opportunity to testify on an issue vitally important to Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service, and advocacy efforts. More than 55,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.