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Montana Ag Network Report: August 6th 2019

Trade agreement for high-quality U.S. beef
Posted at 9:01 AM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 11:36:10-04

This past Friday, The U.S. and European Union signed a trade agreement to establish a duty-free quota for high-quality U.S. beef from non-hormone treated cattle. Experts say the deal will level the playing field for U.S. beef and increase sales by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Today we are signing a breakthrough agreement to make it easier to export beef to the European Union,” said President Donald Trump. “We've been under negotiations for quite a while. Farmers we didn't think were being treated fair, but the European Union stepped up. We appreciate it.”

U.S. beef producers have been able to market non-hormone treated cattle to the EU since 1999. Even with that agreement, an unfair quota system has negatively impacted U.S. producers. This new agreement fixes that.

Jennifer Houston, a Tennessee rancher and president of the National Cattlemen's beef Association (NCBA), was at the White House for the announcement. She shared an overview of beef trade with the EU.

“We won a WTO ruling that would allow us to have some duty-free quota,” explained Houston. “Over the years the EU has not restricted that to strictly to U.S. beef. As a result, a lot of times our beef producers who wanted to produce non-hormone treated beef specifically for the European market really couldn't be sure that when their product was ready that they would be quota left. This last negotiation reserves 35,000 tons of beef that will be reserved for U.S. beef producers out a total of 45,000 tons. It's certainty for our U.S. beef producers in that market.”

Montana Stockgrowers Association President Fred Wacker said that the trade announcement is much needed good news for the industry.

“Well, this means an awful lot to the ranchers of the state of Montana,” Wacker said. “We've really got this thing down. We've got the science. We've got the right cattle. We have now this great market of the European Union which we've been selling beef to in the past. Now, we're going up to see $150 million dollars under this new agreement in year one. Then going to a high in a few short years of $420 million dollars. This is a great market and a great day for Montana cattle people.”

Jennifer Houston said the EU beef trade deal is just one of the many trade issues that NCBA is currently working on.

“This is just one of a number of balls that are up in the air that our U.S. trade representatives are still working on,” said Houston. “We're meeting this week with both Japan and with China. So, this is just one step in the right direction. We're going to try to get more markets open to U.S. beef to help all of us in the beef business in the United States.”

Once implemented, the annual quota will increase from 18,500 metric tons in year one valued at $150 million dollars to 35,000 metric tons in year seven with a value of $420 Million dollars.

In other news, the Federal Communications Commission approved an order late last week to help better identify gaps in broadband coverage throughout rural America. The agency will identify those gaps with a new data collection process.

The agency will try to collect more accurate broadband deployment data by communicating with internet service providers and getting comments from the public on the accuracy of the service maps.

The FCC will no longer count everyone in a census block as served by broadband if just one person in a census block is served. A census block in an urban area could be one city block. However, a census block in a rural area could be hundreds of miles.

Rural broadband advocates, Congress, as well as Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue, have all criticized the FCC’s broadband access maps as inaccurate. The agency’s most recent report shows that more than 21 million people have no access to high-speed broadband internet.