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Senators concerned over growing agricultural trade deficit

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U.S. agricultural trade exports declined by $17 billion in fiscal year 2023, raising concerns from U.S. senators about how the Biden administration will address the issue.

The deficit is growing and will decline by another $8 billion in fiscal year 2023, the senators said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade deficit is projected to reach a record $30.5 billion in FY 2024,” the senators said.

The Biden administration’s trade strategy is to blame, they said in the letter.

“While the Biden administration continually refuses to pursue traditional free trade agreements, China, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and others continue to ink trade pacts that diminish American export opportunities and global economic influence,” the senators said. “International trade is critical to the continued success of U.S. agriculture.”

South Dakota and North Dakota, which are part of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, are feeling the effects, according to a news release from Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. Corn and soybean exports are down 25%.

Grains and animal exports experienced the most reductions, led by lower values of corn, wheat, sorghum and beef, according to a report from the USDA.

“Global commodity prices receding from the highs of 2022, were one of the main drivers of the broad decrease in export values,” the USDA said.

The senators said the decline is affecting the economy.

“Diminishing access to foreign agricultural markets for U.S. industries creates significant economic headwinds and jeopardizes the livelihoods of more than one million American workers, farmers, and ranchers, as well as millions more U.S. jobs throughout the export supply chain,” the senators said.

The senators asked the Biden administration what it plans to do to increase foreign agricultural exports in 2024.

“We further ask the Biden administration to take steps to analyze and consider the relationship between U.S. competitiveness and market share in foreign agricultural markets with negotiated tariffs, tariff rate quotas, and other market access provisions,” they said. “A continued decline in U.S. agricultural exports is avoidable and unacceptable. The Biden administration must take immediate action to ensure this does not become a long-term trend.