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Groups wish to broaden trade pacts with Europe




Illinois Correspondent


NORMAL, Ill. — At last report, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations had extended to six rounds, leaving many in the U.S. livestock industry wondering when a trade pact that lifts the European Union (EU) ban on certain imports of beef and pork treated with hormones and chemicals will ever be agreed upon.

"Getting a T-TIP with Europe, we feel, is going to be very important both to grain and meat exports," said Tamara Nelsen, senior director of commodities for the Illinois Farm Bureau, during last week’s Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Commodity Conference in downtown Normal.

"T-TIP is going to broaden and expand the trade relationship between the U.S. and Europe, particularly on meat export products. With pork and beef sometimes hitting barriers in Europe – barriers often not based on science but rather consumer preference – we’ve been closely watching what’s been going on with T-TIP."

One of the biggest hurdles for T-TIP lies with the EU ban on U.S.-used hormones and beta-agonist drugs in livestock. Another lies in duties imposed on imports to the EU that the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and other commodity organizations are asking to have lifted. Discussing those barriers was a big reason USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Europe in June to discuss the importance of T-TIP with agricultural and trade officials from the EU.

"The EU is the world’s largest importer of food and agricultural products. But despite the continued growth of this market, U.S. market share is shrinking because U.S. producers and exporters continue to face numerous trade barriers," Vilsack said June 13, before embarking on his four-city European tour.

"The negotiation of T-TIP offers a major opportunity to address these barriers and expand market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers."

Also in Normal for the Commodity Conference last week, an official with USMEF said the potential for additional market share for U.S. meat products makes T-TIP and other ongoing international trade pact negotiations a high priority.

"It’s premature to comment because negotiations are ongoing with T-TIP, as they are with TPP (Transpacific Partnership) discussions in Asia. But we’re optimistic that something will be concluded on both agreements because there is a potential upside for trade," said Dan Halstrom, senior vice president of marketing and communications for USMEF.

"From a supply and demand standpoint, Europe is one of the wealthier world economies, and while we are doing some business with them there today, particularly on beef and on some pork, there is a lot of additional potential. From the USMEF’s point of view, there is additional opportunity for pork, beef and lamb."

The use of hormones and ractopamine appear to be near or at the top of the EU’s list of objections to the import of U.S.-raised livestock. Ractopamine, a beta-agonist food additive used in livestock to promote leanness, is currently banned for food animals in dozens of countries, including Russia.

A lobby letter sent to the U.S. Trade Representative by USMEF last May emphasized the need for the EU to lift its hormone and ractopamine ban for T-TIP to move forward.

"We wish to emphasize that an agreement that eliminates duties on beef and pork but leaves the EU’s hormone and ractopamine bans in place will be of limited value to the U.S. beef and pork industries," the letter read, in part.

"(This) limits the population from which you can draw from, on a raw materials side, for both beef and pork. There is a significant amount of production that uses those additives," said Halstrom, whose main focus with USMEF is to promote sales opportunities for U.S. beef, pork and lamb.

Halstrom delivered a couple of presentations while in Normal to IFB officials, members and farmers.

"My main message at the Commodity Conference was that as good as exports have done over the last five or 10 years – to the tune of a $260 per-head contribution on the beef revenue side on exports and over $65 per head on the pork side – things are lining up for still more value in the future," he said. "When you look at the situation globally, there are still a lot of opportunities on demand going forward."