U.S. beef exports increase, pork flat

A sales person at the Jusco Supermarket in Tokyo arranges U.S. beef products. Japan remains the top market for U.S. beef exports, so a new trade agreement is especially important for ranchers.

U.S. agricultural groups were quick to thank President Donald Trump and the administration’s trade team for forging a tentative trade agreement with Japan on Sunday.

The groups have been concerned about losing ground to competitors that already have an agreement with Japan through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

The stakes for U.S. farmers are large. They exported nearly $13 billion in agricultural products to Japan in 2018, according to USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. In 2018, U.S. exports to Japan included $2.8 billion in corn, $2.1 billion in beef, $1.6 billion in pork, $927 million in soybeans and $717 million in wheat.

Securing greater access for those products and others is appreciated, Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president, said.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are pleased to hear that the U.S. and Japan may be close to a trade deal that includes agriculture. This is much-needed good news on the agricultural trade front,” he said.

The U.S. Grains Council is calling the tentative agreement a critical win-win, allowing U.S. farmers a level playing field with competitors.

“Japan is a deeply valued trading partner for U.S. grain farmers, currently the second-largest buyer of U.S. corn and a significant buyer of U.S. sorghum and U.S. barley for food and feed purposes,” Ryan LeGrand, USGC president, said.

Japan is also a partner with which the U.S. industry hopes to build a growing ethanol market, he said.

The American Soybean Association has repeatedly stressed the need to work hard on existing and new free trade agreements during the trade war with China, Davie Stephens, ASA president, said.

“So we are definitely pleased to hear that the president and his team have heard ASA and other farm groups by working on this deal,” he said.

Groups representing animal agriculture also weighed in.

Japan is the largest value destination for U.S. pork and beef exports, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Dan Ahlstrom, USMEF president and CEO, said the agreement is “tremendous” news for U.S. farmers and ranchers and everyone in the red meat supply chain because it will level the playing field in the world’s most competitive red meat import market.

“It is also a very positive development for our customer base in Japan, which USMEF and our industry partners have spent decades building,” he said.

The Japanese market represented 25% of U.S. pork exports in 2018, and U.S. pork is a preference among many Japanese customers, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

“We look forward to rapid implementation of the agreement as international competitors are currently taking U.S. pork market share through more favorable access,” David Herring, NPPC president, said.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sees the agreement as another victory for the U.S. beef industry.

“Removing the massive 38.5% tariff on U.S. beef will level the playing field in Japan, and we are very thankful to President Trump and his trade team for continuing to fight on behalf of America’s ranching families,” Jennifer Houston, NCBA president, said.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said U.S. farmers and ranchers needed a win and the preliminary agreement comes at a critical time.

“With major competitors eyeing our market share in Japan, expanding access for U.S. producers is critical,” Barbara P. Glenn, CEO of NASDA, said.

U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers said in a joint statement an agreement would keep U.S. wheat flowing to a very large and crucial market for U.S. farmers

“We are very happy that this agreement will end the growing competitive cost advantage that Canadian and Australian wheat imports got under the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement,” Doug Goings, USW chairman, said.

Locked out of that agreement, U.S. wheat imports would have become less and less competitive to the point that Japan’s flour millers would have no other choice than to buy lower cost wheat from the CPTPP member countries such as Canada and Australia, USW and NAWG said.

The agreement is a much needed trade deal with Japan, Ben Scholz, NAWG president, said. “This is a huge win for those of us who grow wheat and all U.S. farmers and ranchers,” he said.

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