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FAS cuts would make export issues difficult, Vilsack says

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a meat industry group today that a proposed cut in the budget for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service would make it difficult for the agency to promote exports and fight trade barriers in other countries, and also explained the intricacies of trade negotiations with other countries.

Speaking to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Vilsack said that while he understood the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee was under pressure when it cut the FAS budget, members of Congress would have to realize the cut would have a real impact on efforts to increase U.S. farm exports. The secretary said the proposed cuts in the USDA budget totaled 25 percent in discretionary spending over two years, and raise questions about whether the agency would be able to do all it is mandated to do.

Responding to questions about trade negotiations, Vilsack said that:
  • When U.S. negotiators reached an agreement with Korea, it was with the understanding that the United States would not reach a better agreement with other countries.
  • The conflict in keeping China from opening its market to U.S. beef is over China’s willingness to accept U.S. offals.
  • The Obama administration wants the Korea free trade agreement approved before it negotiates further with China.
  • The United States and farm and ranch leaders must respect the difficulty of the situation in Japan, where the government is dealing with earthquake-related disasters.
  • The United States is waiting for the Mexican Health Ministry to provide a certificate that could lead to a larger market opening for meat.
  • The United States is expected to rewrite its rule on the admission of beef from countries with mad cow disease, and that reaction to that rewrite might determine whether an agreement can be reached with the European Union on whether European beef can be imported into the United States.