Clucking on Capitol Hill

Senators urge administration officials to get China access for U.S. poultry

By: Chris Gillis
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Photo: napocska / Shutterstock.com
   A bipartisan group of 37 senators want U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to apply pressure on China to reopen its market to U.S. exports of chicken and turkey before the end of the year.
   China closed its doors to these products in January 2015 after a wild duck was found to have highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Two years later, China continues to enforce the ban, which many officials in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and poultry industry believe flies in the face of the World Organization for Animal Health standards.
   “We understand and are encouraged that China has begun its animal health audit of the U.S. poultry industry,” the senators wrote in a July 26 letter. “Once this audit is completed, we encourage USDA to remain diligent in seeking final Chinese approval for U.S. poultry’s first successful shipment as quickly as possible. Poultry products are often part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, and our farmers would very much like to be able to offer their products during that time.”
   At its peak, the value of poultry exports from the United States to China was $722 million for chicken and $71 million for turkey. The United States is the largest poultry producer in the world and the second biggest poultry meat exporter, with nearly 18 percent of its product shipped to foreign markets, according to the National Chicken Council.
   “With the productivity of U.S. agriculture exceeding domestic demand, the U.S. food and agriculture industry—and the rural communities which depend on it—rely heavily on export markets to sustain prices and revenues,” the senators said. “Poultry is produced in almost every state. For communities and states that rely on a thriving and growing poultry industry, these arrangements are essential to a strong and vibrant future.”
   Officials with the National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council praised the lawmakers for taking up their cause with the USDA.
   “It is critical that we continue to develop an open trading relationship with the Chinese," the groups said. "The Senate’s strong statement on behalf of American poultry products makes clear balance and fairness must exist for a two-way open market with China."

It is critical that we continue to develop an open trading relationship with the Chinese. The Senate’s strong statement on behalf of American poultry products makes clear balance and fairness must exist for a two-way open market with China.

   Since the start of the year, the USDA has already reached significant milestones to restore agricultural trade with China.
   As part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action plan announced May 11 by the Trump administration, the USDA in mid-June released the requirements for its Export Verification program for U.S. packers to apply for exportation of beef to China. The first U.S. beef shipments in nearly 14 years arrived in China late June, with much of the groundwork for that program laid by the Obama Administration's trade team.
   China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016, according to USDA figures. However, the United States was banned from China's market in December 2003 due to a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow" disease. Even without access to the Chinese market, the United States remains the world's fourth largest beef supplier, at more than $5.4 billion in exports for 2016.
   Another major accomplishment by the USDA in cracking the Chinese market for U.S. agricultural goods occurred in July with a new protocol reached to allow for the first time ever U.S. rice exports to China.
   China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Since 2013, the country has also been the largest importer, taking in nearly 5 million tons from abroad last year. According to trade association USA Rice, China consumes the equivalent of the entire U.S. rice crop about every two weeks, making it by far the world’s largest market.
   China first opened its rice market to imports when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, but U.S. rice was prohibited from entry due to the lack of a phytosanitary protocol between the two governments.