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By Casey Wooten
President Donald Trump can “make progress” on lifting trade barriers for U.S. dairy products in Canada, a member of his campaign agriculture advisory team said.
The Trump administration could open up the market for U.S. dairy in Canada if the White House moves to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, told an audience at the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference April 12.
“I think you can see the opportunity here as we look at our trade policy and re-evaluation, update, whatever you want to call it, of making some headway with the Canadians and their dairy policy.” Conner said.
Conner was on the short list for secretary of agriculture. His remarks offer a window into the administration’s thinking about key agriculture issues likely to arise in the near future. Though he’s advised the Trump administration, Conner said that he won’t be joining Sonny Perdue, the president’s nominee to lead the USDA, at the department.
Dairy isn’t included in the free trade provisions of NAFTA, and Canada’s supply management system restricts imports of cheese, butter, milk and other dairy products from the U.S.
That has raised the ire of U.S. dairy farmers, who say the restrictions violate existing trade agreements and are exacerbating a glut of milk in the U.S.
A coalition of dairy trade groups including the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council urged the Trump administration April 5 to fight back against what they said were Canada’s protectionist trade policies.
Conner also said that while the Trump administration will focus on a U.S.-centric, buy American trade policy, that may not include re-establishing country-of-origin labeling rules for beef and pork.
“Does that translate into country-of-origin labeling? I’m not sure, I kind of doubt it,” Conner said.
The rule was championed by U.S. ranching groups such as the Billings, Mont.-based R-CALF USA. Congress, however, repealed country-of-origin-labeling rules for beef and pork imports in December 2015, after the World Trade Organization ruled that the regulations were a non-tariff trade barrier, potentially setting up more than $1 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs for U.S. goods.
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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com
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