Food & Ag Policy Briefing: USDA Outlook event, CAP reform delay, new allergen labeling
Trade disputes, policy uncertainty and weather among chief concerns for US ag sector
The outlook for US food and agriculture policy in 2019 was openly discussed and dissected over the course of several days in Virginia last week, with trade disputes, farm incomes and the regulation of gene-edited animals among the issues on the agenda.
This article provides a review of the most significant talking points in the food and agriculture policy sphere for the past seven days. Select the links below to access the full story. To add channels or to take a free trial follow this link or see the instructions on the article page.
The USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum kicked off with a warning from its Chief Economist Robert Johansson that there is more uncertainty for farmers this year than perhaps any time since 1996, the first year of the Freedom to Farm Act.
He cited questions around policy, trade and weather concerns as all adding to this scenario, and explained that those issues will all filter through to the crops and livestock sector in the coming months.
On trade, agriculture ministers from the US, Canada and Mexico all agreed that lifting Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium is needed to reach an agreement on the revamp and ratification of NAFTA, the USMCA, although the timeline for such a deal remains unclear.
US trade officials have high hopes for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan in the near future, but the chief agriculture negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative, Greg Doud, was scathing in his appraisal of the EU approach to ag trade issues, calling on the bloc to “get with the program” in regard to new technologies and 21st Century trade.
Resolving the current trade impasse with China is a priority for President Donald Trump, according to USDA deputy secretary Steve Censky, who added that the agriculture sector has “taken the brunt of retaliation” since the trade war was stoked up, and trade aid programs are “no substitute” for functioning export markets.
Finally, top ag officials bemoaned the “broken” system for the regulation of gene-edited animals, warning the FDA that how the regulatory framework for this sector evolves in the next few years will strongly determine the availability of such animals in the US and around the world.
CAP reform delay
In Europe, agriculture MEPs postponed a vote on the European Commission’s CAP reform proposals, meaning the new CAP is unlikely to be agreed until after May’s European Parliament elections.
There will be no vote on the post-2020 CAP proposals in March, as was originally planned, and the schedule has been changed to introduce a vote at the beginning of April instead.
Although the ComAgri members’ vote will take place before those elections, the Parliament’s internal rules prescribe that motions tabled at Committee level need to wait one month before they can be voted in the plenary by all MEPs.
This will have knock-on consequences for the whole CAP reform process, potentially meaning that the agricultural policy overhaul will not be completed before the end of 2020, with some MEPs arguing that transitional arrangements will be needed for the 2020/21 CAP year.
Last week, ComAgri vice chair Paolo De Castro, in an interview that took place prior to the delay, discussed his views on the potential for a renationalisation of the CAP and other issues with IEG Policy’s Alessandro Mancosu.
In the UK, the annual National Farmers’ Union conference heard environment secretary Michael Gove tell attendees that the country will retain import tariffs on ‘sensitive’ agricultural products in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
He mentioned sheepmeat, beef, poultry, dairy, milk, cheese and pigmeat farmers as being particularly at risk in terms of domestic production should imports be allowed in from other markets without a tariff barrier.
And in France, the Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) has called for more allergens to be listed on food labels than currently required under existing laws.
In a report, ANSES says that new foods, processing methods and dietary habits are all factors that can have an impact on allergies, including the allergens involved. It is important to measure how allergies are changing and track any new allergens that emerge to prevent the risk of reactions, particularly anaphylactic shock, the French agency says.
In case you missed it…
Other articles of note from IEG Policy last week: