Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tri-National Accord in Canada

I was in Canada this week at the Tri-National Agricultural Accord, which represents a longstanding commitment among the senior state and provincial agricultural officials of the United States, Canada and Mexico to work collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues. We discussed issues ranging from harmonization of pesticide maximum residue limits and organic standards to the rural development programs vital to sustaining our rural communities.

On Tuesday, I presented the need for a joint statement on H1N1 nomenclature. I felt this was necessary because of the continuous and inaccurate usage of the term “swine flu” by the media. The misuse of this label by professional media sources is drastically compounding the human health crisis by providing the public with inaccurate information that creates a skewed perception of pork and perpetuates an unwarranted and avoidable economic calamity for many agricultural producers, processors and distributors. It’s unfair to consumers to mislead them on something as sacred as their food supply.

Yesterday, we led discussions on livestock border crossing in a U.S.-Mexico bilateral meeting. These discussions are imperative, because Mexico is a valuable trading partner. For example, since the border reopened to beef cattle in 2008, we’ve seen roughly 1,455 head shipped through Texas. At $2,000 per head, the total value crossed to date works out to $2.9 million. The direct economic impact of those sales is $6.4 million, and the total for beef cattle trade through ALL U.S. ports is valued at about $6.3 million, with a direct economic impact equal to about $13.8 million. This is great for Texas cattle producers.

But much more needs to be done to enhance trade opportunities and ensure trade runs smoothly for both sides. There are several trade impediments that we are trying to remedy, including the complexity of the paperwork and expense of permit requirements; varying inspection procedures and officials from one port to the next; and seals on trailers that limit assembling loads from multiple ranches.

We must work through these barriers to ensure Texas producers maximize gains and our international partners get the best that Texas has to offer. The steps we take today can lead to a more harmonious tomorrow for Texas and our global trading partners.

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