Mike Johanns: U.S. Must Seize Even Small Trade Opportunities


By Rhonda Brooks, Editor, Farm Journal Magazine, Editorial Director, Farm Journal Media

via AgWeb - Jan 3, 2019


I caught up with former USDA Sec. Mike Johanns recently by phone to discuss his outlook for U.S. trade opportunities in 2019. Here is his candid feedback to four of the questions I posed to him. --Rhonda Brooks


1) What can farmers expect to happen with exports once the trade tariffs with China are removed? I believe the first thing we’ll experience is a psychological boost followed by soybean price improvement. But then reality will set in with regard to the soybean arena. We had a remarkable crop in 2018, and we’re at a historic carry-out level—USDA says 955 million bushels. It’s going to take some time to work through those bushels, even with strong markets.


Once the trade barriers are removed, I believe we’ll also see a significant boost in pork exports to China, which would really benefit our producers. The other thing I would say is that even with the tariffs removed, it will take some time to regain trust between the U.S. and China and to fully reestablish these markets.


2) What’s your perspective on our new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico? Right now, we’re working to finalize the details for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, and we still need Congressional approval. I see three huge benefits to U.S. agriculture with this agreement:


First, we do just under $40 billion in agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico, so it’s very important to preserving our trade with both countries. Second, the agreement calls for a science-based framework for food safety issues, and that’s important to all three countries. Third, the agreement calls for a review of gene editing technologies, so they’re used in a more standardized way. That’s positive for the U.S., because it’s been difficult to get those technologies approved.


3) What trade priorities do you believe the U.S. should have, moving forward, with countries other than China, Canada and Mexico? ...


4) In closing, is there anything else you would want to share with American farmers? ...