August 6, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON (August 6, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson assured key leaders of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee that recent estimates by the Chamber of Commerce and others regarding the retaliatory tariffs submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) were way off the mark.

“The Chamber [of Commerce] might be pleased to learn that the $3 billion of retaliatory tariffs claimed by our Canadian friends are tremendously overstated. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently provided a report to the WTO that highlighted several flaws in the Canadian and Mexican reports and more accurately estimated a level of retaliation closer to $90 million,” noted Johnson in a letter today to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow. “That comes out to under $0.28 per person per year in the United States, or about one-third of a penny per pound of beef and pork in the U.S.”

Johnson argued that although retaliation has been grossly overstated, it is nevertheless not a desired outcome, and urged support for the Hoeven-Stabenow amendment for voluntary COOL. “The voluntary program will allow for those who would like to use an origin label to continue to do so, while preventing labels from being misused or misleading.”

The U.S. Trade Representative has said that both options being debated in the Senate – the Roberts amendment and the Hoeven-Stabenow amendment – ‘have the potential to constitute compliance with U.S. WTO obligations.’  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also praised the bipartisan compromise bill.

Johnson noted that Canada and Mexico may not like the U.S. definition of what a product of the U.S. is, but it is America’s sovereign right as a nation to determine and maintain that definition, especially in the context of a voluntary program. “If packers do not want to segregate, they do not have to. It will not be required, contrary to the Chamber’s claim; it is completely voluntary,” he pointed out. “Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz even argued during the WTO process that the U.S. should adopt a voluntary label as a means of resolving the dispute.”

“The WTO would be permitted to, and has historically considered, any new legislation that changes the provisions that were found to be out of trade compliance,” noted the letter. “The amount of any arbitration could be completely eliminated when considering a change from a mandatory program to a voluntary program.”

“The WTO sees retaliation as a last resort and a temporary solution while parties can work towards a solution that works for everyone. We have found that solution – it is the Hoeven-Stabenow amendment,” he concluded.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.


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