Monday, April 10, 2017

U.S. farmers worry about Trump trade policies as their share of total agricultural exports shrinks

Bloomberg Interactive map shows how other
countries are closing the gap with the U.S.
President Trump's "aggressive positions on U.S. trade relations threaten to worsen the relative decline of U.S. exports, as countries look elsewhere for agricultural products," Alan Bjerga, Blacki Migliozzi and Cindy Hoffman report for Bloomberg News. The main reason is that other countries, especially Brazil, have caught up with the U.S. in developing more farmland and improving their trade prospects.

"Proposed legislation introduced in Mexico’s parliament would block U.S. corn in favor of Argentinian and Brazilian products, and South American countries are trying to seize market share away from the U.S.," Bloomberg reports. "Adecoagro SA, an Argentine operator of farmland, made its first-ever rice sale to Mexico after betting that souring trade relations with the U.S. could boost South American producers."

"That could exacerbate a problem for the U.S. apparent in agricultural commodities data," Bloomberg reports. "A look at the U.S. share of bulk farm commodities shipped overseas—ranging from corn, soybeans and wheat to cotton, coffee and rubber—from the past 15 years shows the U.S. portion of global exports has fallen from 26 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2015. While U.S. exports have increased, Brazil and the Black Sea [Ukraine, Russia, etc.] have risen proportionally much faster, making the U.S. less central to agricultural trade."

Joe Glauber, a former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the lead farm negotiator during the Doha Round of global trade talks, "said a less-central U.S. has less control over its own destiny," Bloomberg reports. "Policies to limit overproduction become useless when other countries can replace acreage, and the U.S. is also more vulnerable to long-term export damage should it discourage trade, simply because rivals are now more able to take advantage of missteps." Glauber told Bloomberg, "If a trade war led to the U.S. being less able to sell its soybeans or wheat, you would find quickly that the rest of the world would say, 'thank you'."

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