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View from the hill: Trade not top priority for Biden administration

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening US rural communities’ limited healthcare.

Jenny Hopkinson, senior government relations representative, US National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said allaying the effects of the coronavirus was of primary concern. ­

 

She reiterated President-elect Joe Biden’s prioritising of Covid-19 and management of the economic downturn.

 

According to Ms Hopkinson, trade will initially be a lesser priority for the Biden administration.

 

She said: “It has not featured during the election or primaries and not risen to the top as it did under the Trump administration.” She said fair and balanced trade was anticipated with the new administration.

 

Ms Hopkinson referred to a re-framing of relations, with China being critical to correct adverse trading practices. She said: “The Trump administration’s tariffs did not deliver that, just retaliation.”

 

Chinese malpractice

 

Ms Hopkinson cited efforts made by the Obama administration with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to control Chinese malpractice, adding: “US rules were central to TPP which China would have to comply with.”

 

A review of current US trade initiatives is necessary according to Ms Hopkinson. “To see if it is something they want to trash or put on the back burner for a bit or go ahead with as they work out their priorities,” she said, adding the UK⁄US free trade agreement negotiation will be complex.

 

“Maybe a UK deal was seen as low hanging fruit. It is a complicated one – more complicated than the Trump and Johnson administrations thought it would be.”


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President-elect Biden is committed to rejoining the Paris climate accord which the US NFU endorses.

 

Ms Hopkinson said: “The US NFU is excited to see action on climate change at the federal level.”

 

Effects of climate change on us agriculture was a major concern, said Ms Hopkinson, adding: “It affects what we can grow and where we can grow it.

 

“The US is dealing with extreme weather never dealt with before. Storms on the gulf coast, Louisiana and in Iowa inflicted millions of dollars damage and there are wildfires in the west.”

 

The US NFU is also arguing for meaningful action on anti-trust issues concerning the meat packing industry.

 

According to Ms Hopkinson, the beef sector is ‘over vertically integrated; four meat packers control the vast majority of the market’.

 

Consolidation has diminished returns for beef farmers and limits marketing options.

 

Ms Hopkinson said across the US, there were now ‘fewer places to buy your feed and sell your crops leading to shrinking margins for farmers’.

 

She added the ‘chipping away’ of markets for crops, limited agriculture supplies and services across rural America must be confronted by the Biden administration.

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