International Trade Tariffs Must Be Lowered

For California Ag Especially, International Trade Tariffs Must Be Lowered


By Laurie Greene, Editor,

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum recently met with agricultural commodity representatives at the California Center for International Trade Development (CITD) in Fresno.

Nuzum spoke about both the opportunities California agricultural groups face as well as key problems they encounter in international trade. She said, “The strength of California agriculture can sometimes appear to be its weakness, in this sense: California is, of course, the largest agricultural state in the United States. It’s also incredibly diverse compared to other parts of the United States. And, because of that diversity, it faces a wider variety of challenges and problems in global trading.

“If there were less diversity, there might be fewer problems,” said Nuzum. “But, with greater presence in the marketplace, having a wider diversity of products or types of products, and whether their product is fresh or processed, California growers and exporters and government officials and regulators face a very challenging set of circumstances, particularly with international trade tariffs.”

Nuzum said that is both the good news and challenging news—all in one. “You’ve got a rich agricultural economy,” she elaborated, and you’ve got a lot of natural resources which are not necessarily found in other parts of the United States. This enables the industry to offer a very rich plate of different kinds of agricultural products. There are some products, and I am thinking about tree nuts now, in which California represents the majority of world production or world trade. So, other consumers around the world are dependent on having that American product, that Californian product, out there in the marketplace,” she said.

Nuzum said because California’s diverse produce is exported around the world, international trade discussions need to come to fruition to lower foreign trade barriers. “Our tariffs, both agricultural and non-agricultural, are much lower than other countries we trade with. That is one reason it is so important to negotiate these trade agreements—to reduce these other tariffs to zero, or at least to our levels,” she said.

(Photo credit: The Busy Port of Oakland, Flickr)

California Exports: The Future of the Agriculture Industry

In 2013, California’s agriculture exports totaled to approximately $19.5 billion dollars. Those exports not only helped to boost farm prices and income, it also supported the existence of approximately 147,700 jobs both on and off the farm.

“Every one billion dollars in agricultural exports generates another 1.2 dollars in economic activity outside the agriculture sector,” said USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum. “When we help promote agricultural exports – it’s not just agriculture that benefits.”

According the USDA, U.S. agriculture producers rely heavily on foreign markets to sell their products. Approximately 70% of nuts, 75% of cotton and 40% of grapes are exported internationally, and California agriculture greatly contributes to those statistics.

Ninety-five percent of the world’s food consumers live outside of the United States, and only 1% of U.S. companies actually export.

“Export opportunities for those involved with agriculture are immense,” said California Center for International Trade Development Director Alicia Rios. “Most growers don’t realize that there are many programs out there to help them learn about the industry and can help them to market their product to international food buyers.”

At an Agricultural Trade Roundtable event, Nuzum met with and discussed the implications of international trade with key agribusiness representatives from California’s Central Valley. Nuzum noted that American producers actually benefit from trade agreements. The goal is to have them eliminate foreign tarrifs, unscientific regulatory barriers and bureaucratic administrative procedures that are designed to block trade.

With the world’s population growing, and with income fluctuations in developing countries, there are many opportunities for the U.S. ag industry to market its products.

“2015 is going to be a key year in setting the stage on the future conditions that the U.S. agriculture industry will face,” said Nuzum. “If we don’t take advantage of international opportunities, somebody else will.”

For more information about export programs, click on the links below.