FAS chief encourages patience on trade

Don't expect China's demand for soybeans to be made up all at once, Isley tells farmers at FIIC. 'We're going to hit a lot of singles.'


USDA Foreign Ag Service Administrator Ken Isley said more details of the recently announced farmer aid package will be announced later this month. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

USDA’s Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service encouraged farmers to be patient as the administration negotiates with China and other countries.

“If you want that long-term benefit, we’re going to have a little more short-term patience to get through China, in particular, and some of these trade issues in general,” Ken Isley told farmers attending Illinois Farm Bureau’s Farm Income and Innovations Conference last week in Normal.

Isley, on the job for three months, reminded the group that President Donald Trump promised “he would have the backs of American farmers.” He outlined the administration’s $12 billion aid package announced last week.

“We’ve heard: ‘We want trade, not aid.’ And I’d be the first to stand up here and tell you, we want trade, not aid,” Isley said. “However, that doesn’t mean that short-term aid isn’t appropriate and hopefully be appreciated.”

Isley said more details of the three-part package, which includes direct payments for certain commodities affected by tariffs, will be announced later this month. Foreign Ag Services, he said, will run the trade promotion program, in addition to the existing program.

“Expect for us to kind of double up on the money we have available to work with industry to explore new market opportunities,” he said.

Related: Trade issues take bite out of meat prices. Read more here.

Isley said the United States has a $376 billion annual trade deficit with China. Agriculture has a surplus. Soybean sales to China alone totaled $12.4 billion, he said.

“It’s not easy to make up $12.4 billion worth of soybeans. … We’re trying. We’re going to hit a lot of singles, and as Undersecretary (Ted) McKinney says, we’re even willing to take a hit batter once in awhile to get additional sales. But it’s going to take time to work through.”

Meanwhile, Isley provided an update on efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“We’re extraordinarily close with Mexico,” he said. “All technical issues, in fact, in all of NAFTA, are pretty well resolved. Mexico, we can get a deal with – whether that’s a bilateral deal or whether that expands and brings in Canada, I don’t know. I can’t predict the future. I would be optimistic.”

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.