Vilsack: Port progress may aid agricultural exports ByPeterHecht
“This is about making sure that your contributions are recognized and your challenges are addressed,” Biden said. “This isall aboutmakingsure that all of you are fully built in as we build back better.” The president also said his $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act , passed inNovember, will provide signif- icant benefits for agricultural and rural communities in “roads, bridges, rail, waterways” and broadband “to build more resilient supply chains and make it easier, faster and cheaper for you to get your goods to market.” In his speech, Vilsack touted anoth- er market and export opportunity: cli- mate-smart agriculture. “We know that the markets in both the U.S. and around the world are con- tinually going to demand more cli- mate-smart commodities,” Vilsack said. “They’regoing towant toknowwhereand howvariousproductswereproduced.And theexcitingnews is thatweareon thecusp of providing significant help.” He said the USDA Commodity Credit Corporationwill bemaking fundingavail- able forpilotprojects that canhelp farmers reducecosts in implementing sustainable agricultural practices. Earlier, the credit corporation made $500 million in loans available to help farmers in the Western U.S. with drought recoveryandadoptionof newwater-smart management practices. Vilsack said the administration is work- ingwithAFBFtodevelopvoluntary, incen- tive-basedprograms that encouragesmart farming practices and reward innovation without governmentmandates. “Listening to the FarmBureau and lis- tening tothose inagriculture,weknowthat it’s important to establish a partnership in this effort,” Vilsack said. “Weknowthat it has tobevoluntaryand it has tobe incentive-based,” Vilsack said. (PeterHecht is chief editorof publications for theCaliforniaFarmBureau. Hemay be contacted at email@example.com.)
U.S. ports aremaking progress in clear- ingdockspiledhighwithshippingcontain- ers inapandemic-inducedcrisis that isde- layingbillionsof dollars inU.S. agricultural exports and causing severe financial wor- ries for America’s farmers, U.S. Agriculture Secretary TomVilsack saidMonday. In a wide-ranging speech at the AmericanFarmBureauFederationAnnual ConventioninAtlanta,VilsacksaidtheU.S. Department ofAgriculturehas committed $500 million to ease port congestion and related transportation challenges. But, he said, “Wehave toomanyemptycontainers leavingourportswithouthavingagricultur- al products in them.” A recent University of California, Davis, studyestimatedCaliforniafarmers lost$2.1 billion in export sales between May and September 2021due to container shortag- es, clogged ports and other inefficiencies. The problem has particularly impacted exports of California tree nuts andwine. The port congestion, combined with increasing imports fromAsia and surging demand for containers, has ledsomeship- ping companies to rush empty containers back to the Far East without bothering to fill them. Vilsack said the crisis was triggered by a rapidlyexpandingeconomyandincreased consumer demands amid the market re- covery from the pandemic. But he said
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appears
with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall in Atlanta. President Biden also delivered a video address to the AFBF conference.
farmers need to benefit in that recovery. “There’samarketdemand, anexportop- portunity. There’sachance…forus tohave a recordyear inexports,”Vilsack said. But, he added, “We can’t have a record year for exports if we have empty contain- ers leaving our docks without our agricul- tural products that are waiting for those markets.” He warned, “We can potentially losemarkets.We can see spoilage.We can see losses of value because of that delay.” Vilsack said easing the port crisis is crit- ical because 30% of American farmprod- ucts are “exported around theworld.” Another critical action, he said, is to holdChina to its commitment tobuymore Americanagricultural products—apledge
included in the 2020 Phase One Trade Agreement between theU.S. andChina. While he said sales of farm products to China have increased as the trade conflict between the two countries has eased, Vilsack said, “Here’s the deal: Our Chinese friends are about $16 billion light inwhat theycommitted topurchase” from American agricultural producers. As he opened his remarks on China, Vilsack said he felt it was important “to send a message to farmers, ranchers and producersand,also, totheAmericanpublic that existing agreementswill be enforced.” Vilsack also said theU.S. is committed to diversify its farmexports “beyond our reli- ance onChina.” For example, he said, new agreementshavereopenedmarketsforpork sales to India, andwheat, corn andpork to Vietnam.Meanwhile,hesaid,anaccordisin theworkstoboostpotatoexportstoMexico. Vilsack’sremarkswereprecededbyavid- eo address to the AFBF Convention from PresidentBiden,whotoutedhisadministra- tion’scommitment toenforcingfaircompe- titionlawstoprotectdomesticmarketaccess for small Americanmeat and poultry pro- ducers. (See relatedstoryonPage10.) Biden said his administration is invest- ing in expanding meat and poultry pro- cessing and that he is working with “a bi- partisangroupof senators ... on legislation tomake cattlemarketsmore transparent. TheAmericanFarmBureauFederation has honored two county Farm Bureaus from California with “County Activities of Excellence” awards for contributions in their communities. Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and Tuolumne County Farm Bureau were among 18 county Farm Bureaus nation- wide that received the honors during AFBF’s 103rd Convention in Atlanta. “These county FarmBureaus are lead- ing through innovation to support and engage with their local communities de- spite the challenges brought on by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau was honored in particular for pioneering a mass vaccination campaign to safe-
Farm Bureaus from Santa Cruz, Tuolumne win honors guard agricultural employees during the pandemic.
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The organization created a pandemic task force with its member growers, the SantaCruzCountyhealthdepartment and the county Agricultural Commissioner’s office. It then partnered with Dignity Health Dominican Hospital in a public healthcampaign topromoteavailabilityof vaccines in farmworkforce communities. Tuolumne County Farm Bureau was honored for creating a social media campaign last year to defeat a local bal- lot measure, Measure V, which would have imposed new parcel taxes. The FarmBureau called it poorly drafted and duplicative of previously approved tax measures. Last June, Tuolumne County voters defeatedMeasureVby 68%to 32%.
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12 Ag Alert January 12, 2022
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