Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Importance of Trade to U.S. Agriculture

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Washington, DC, March 18, 2015 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to start by welcoming all of our witnesses and thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedules to come share their thoughts with us today.

As those of us in this room are aware, America’s farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. They have continuously proven their ability to meet rapidly-growing and ever-changing demands here at home. But their reach stretches well beyond the U.S. border. In fact, exports now account for almost a third of total U.S. farm income. In the case of commodities like cotton, tree nuts, rice, and wheat, over half of total production is exported.

Beyond the obvious benefits to producers, trade also helps support more than a million American jobs in related sectors like food processing and transportation. As a result, it is crucial—not only to American Agriculture, but to the U.S. economy as a whole—to maintain and increase access to the world’s consumers, 95 percent of whom live outside of our borders.

To obtain that access, it is imperative that we work to reduce and eliminate international barriers to trade, so that our farmers and ranchers can compete globally on a level playing field. On that front, the U.S. is currently engaged in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These agreements present opportunities for market access throughout Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. TPP, for example, would connect 12 nations that account for nearly 40% of global GDP.

But as history has shown, in one form or another, trade promotion authority has played a critical role in completing and implementing past agreements. In fact, Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, and the 114th Congress should be no exception. TPA will provide our negotiators with the credibility necessary to conclude the most effective trade agreements possible, by making it clear to the rest of the world that Congress and the Administration are serious about this endeavor.

That being said, the details of these agreements are of utmost importance.  This Committee will do its part to ensure they are favorable to U.S. agriculture. At the end of the day, even with TPA in place, it is Congress who decides if trade agreements will be ratified. But, passing TPA is an essential part of getting to that point. So, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about the role that both trade and TPA play in maintaining a strong and vibrant rural economy.

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