Washington Insider-- Thursday

Canadian View of TPP

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

USDA Details Assistance Programs for Farmers and Ranchers Affected by Wildfires

USDA says farmers who lost crops, livestock or experienced financial loss due to wild fire, might be eligible to receive special funding. USDA plans to help farmers and ranchers by focusing on all possible losses, like replacing trees and vines that take years to grow, finding feed after grazing lands burn, and even the loss of important fences, which are costly to replace.

The Farm Service Agency said the government can assist farmers and ranchers with losses through its Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, or the Tree Assistance Program.

Wildfires are ongoing in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state.

In addition, to the species- or product-specific FSA programs, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. The ECP also provides for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.

Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses.

Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist producers with damaged grazing land as well as farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who find themselves in emergency situations caused by natural disasters.

The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial assistance to producers who agree to defer grazing on damaged land for two years.

Farmers and ranchers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss losses due to fire or other natural causes of loss. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents.

When wildfires destroy or severely damage residential property, Rural Development can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, Rural Development can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. Rural Development also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.


US Rice Industry Urges Changes to Emerging TPP Deal with Japan

A US rice industry group does not support the agreement it says the Office of the US Trade Representative has reached with Japan on market access for rice and is unlikely to back a final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement unless it is renegotiated, according to an official with the USA Rice Federation in an interview with Inside US Trade.

“The package for US rice market access in Japan as we understand it is not something we can accept, and we’re urging USTR to continue to negotiate a better deal for US rice,” USA Rice Chief Operating Officer Bob Cummings said. “If the deal at the end is as we understand it today, it is very unlikely that we would be able to support [TPP],” Cummings added.

Reports previously surfaced that the US and Japan had been discussing proposals to further open up Japan’s rice market to US producers by between 50,000 and 175,000 metric tons a year. In line with USA Rice’s demands, the US had also pushed for better quality of access, which means enabling US rice producers to sell to Japanese end users directly instead of the current requirement that they sell to a Japanese government agency.

USA Rice is not seeking tariff elimination from Japan, but wants to improve the quantity and quality of its access to the Japanese market.

Japan currently restricts rice imports via a tariff-rate quota set at roughly 682,200 metric tons on a milled rice basis, of which the US usually fills roughly half, according to USA Rice. While imports within the quota are duty free, shipments outside the quota are subject to a duty rate of 341 yen per kilogram, or roughly $3,400 per metric ton, making it prohibitive for US producers to ship outside the quota.


Washington Insider: Canadian View of the TPP

Morris Dorosh, long-time editor of Agriweek, a review of Canadian agribusiness, always writes with the gloves off. Once again, he is pressing a question that is in the minds of many others but not frequently expressed: “Is the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) trade initiative in tatters, or is it merely frayed around the edges?”

Dorosh observes that when TPP negotiators left Hawaii empty-handed on July 31, they argued that an agreement in principle was near enough that another two meetings should wrap up the process. Negotiators were to meet again quickly, trade officials said, followed by another ministerial meeting that would end with a draft agreement.

But, it seems now that nothing is happening. There is no date yet for any full-scale follow-on meeting and the TPP has almost disappeared from the news, he says, except for anti-trade arguments being raised in the midst of national elections. At the end of the Maui meeting the official line was that just a few serious items remained outstanding--but now there is talk of “an enormous number.”

Even worse, he thinks the talks have lost their focus and that the process that was supposed to be about removing obstacles to goods and services trade is “stumbling on numerous undecided and controversial issues that have little to do with trade.” These include such things as internet access and the liability of internet service providers, pharmaceutical patents, copyrights and intellectual property, preservation of endangered species and currency manipulation among others.

“All, or perhaps just even one of them, look like they could derail the whole train,” he notes glumly.

His particulars quickly focus on local protectionism, however. For example, Canada is constantly accused of refusing to open its borders to dairy products, a charge led by New Zealand. However, New Zealand’s interest mainly arises from the fact that its dairy sector “has drastically over-expanded in the last few years and is largely responsible for the near-collapse of world prices over the summer.” He also thinks that the United States has no intention of opening its highly-protected sugar markets and that Japan will stand fast on import quotas on rice and duties on wheat—and, that it is in no mood to allow unrestricted motor vehicle imports.

In addition, Australia, Chile and New Zealand have not agreed to a US proposal to standardize the term of drug patents at 12 years and there are other remaining auto vehicle and parts issues.

One aspect of Dorosh’s criticism of the talks is their overall focus, which is too Asian and not North American enough for his taste. However, that is an aspect that has been clear from the beginning and probably reflects global realities more than he would like. At the same time, that likely is not his most serious criticism. He is saying that the leadership, primarily the United States, has let the talks lose focus and has extended the discussions in too many directions and includes too many objectives.

Even now, he says, there is far too much protectionism involved--too few participants mainly interested in getting “big concessions and making small ones.” No country in this process is any more ready to abandon politically touchy domestic policies than Canada, he argues and suggests that may be a fatal flaw based on small ambitions. He thinks the entire package of objectives, “many using trade as a Trojan horse for political ends, was unrealistic from the start.”

The result, he says is that we are now reduced to waiting to see what the next steps will turn out to be.

Thus, it seems that the question is whether the whole “tilt” toward Asia can lead to an effective trade deal anything like the TPP image that was originally promoted. It will be a shame if Dorosh turns out to be correct but it is hard to refute his arguments at this juncture, Washington Insider believes.

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