Is the U.S. committed to strong international trade?

Will the United States wind up a second-rate exporting nation or will we grasp the golden ring?

During the next few years, our country will have one of its best opportunities to export agricultural products. World population is expected to double before it levels off again.

What developing nations want most are cereals, meat, milk and eggs. While U.S. meat consumption is hardly rising, it increases about 100,000 tons per year in Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In China, meat consumption has risen an average of 2.3 million tons yearly during the past few years.

The United States has the climate, cropland and know how to supply agricultural products to feed the nations of the hungry world. Our country has the world?s best infrastructure. We have the best-trained farmers. This competitive edge is larger and more permanent than in any manufacturing industry.

So what is the problem? Our government is not committed to becoming the best we can be in international trade. If we conducted trade the same way we produced food, we wouldn?t have any trouble moving agricultural products to people who need them overseas.

It?s time for the leadership of this country to view American agriculture as one of the premier growth opportunities. We must become more aggressive in conducting trade agreements. Without strong trade agreements that give us free access to the world marketplace we cannot prosper in agriculture or any other business that depends so much on exports.

If the world?s farm trade barriers were removed, this country could increase agricultural commodity sales. That?s a given. This country must eliminate trade sanctions for good. We can no longer afford to impose unilateral trade sanctions on nations that don?t live up to our expectations of how they should conduct their internal affairs.

Sanctions do not work?they only hurt our nation?s ability to trade. Each time we impose new sanctions, we surrender yet another market to competitors who are only too willing to sell in our absence.

U.S. farmers could also supply the raw materials for another $40 billion per year in exports of high-valued processed foods from new plants located primarily in rural areas.

The United States must assume a leadership position in trade talks throughout the world. If our country doesn?t gear up its value-added production, the Japanese and some of our other competitors will.

Potential trading partners cannot wait for us to take our place at the negotiating table. We cannot improve our position in world trade if we cannot find time to meet with them. Unless American farmers and agribusiness convince our government to advance global trading, this country will be sealed in a declining domestic market. If this occurs, the most productive agricultural machine in history will shrivel and die.

The future of U.S. agriculture is tied to our competitiveness in world trade. Our country must become more aggressive and assume its leadership role in trade negotiations.

Today, international markets depend upon about one-third of U.S. agricultural production. U.S. agriculture must increase access to international markets. Increased exports for U.S. agricultural trade must become one of the top priorities for future prosperity in this nation.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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