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U.S. government challenges China's excessive use of price supports

The United States government recently launched new trade enforcement action against the People's Republic of China regarding excessive use of government-provided price supports for Chinese production of rice, wheat and corn.

The United States government recently launched new trade enforcement action against the People's Republic of China regarding excessive use of government-provided price supports for Chinese production of rice, wheat and corn.

Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack were joined by bipartisan members of Congress in announcing the complaint, which challenges that China's use of government price supports has exceeded China's commitments under World Trade Organization rules.

In 2015, China's price supports for rice, wheat and corn were estimated to be nearly $100 billion in excess of the levels China committed to during its accession to the World Trade Organization.

The United States is claiming that the Chinese government's price support programs for rice, wheat and corn inflates Chinese prices above market levels, thereby creating artificial incentives for Chinese farmers to increase their production, while making it difficult for American farmers to compete in the potentially large Chinese market.

According to USDA, through tariff cuts and the removal of other trade barriers, the value of U.S. agricultural products exported to China has gone from $2 billion annually, to more than $20 billion. However, additional export opportunities exist, especially in the sales of U.S. produced grain.

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This latest enforcement action marks the 14th complaint against China that the Office of the United States Trade Representative has brought to the World Trade Organization since 2009.

China agrees to lift ban on U.S. beef

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that China has agreed to lift its ban on imports of U.S. beef. China's decision was made following a recently concluded review of our nation's supply system. This announcement is considered the first critical step in restoring market access to U.S. beef and beef products.

China, along with a number of other countries, placed restrictions on U.S. beef imports following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in December 2003.

During the 2003 fiscal year, U.S. beef exports, excluding beef product sales, totaled $3 billion. But following the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, U.S. beef exports fell to $1.1 billion during the 2004 fiscal year.

Since 2003, USDA has dedicated significant resources to coordinate a multi-agency effort to restore foreign markets to U.S. beef. As a result of those efforts, by 2011, U.S. beef shipments had regained volume levels prior to the discovery of the disease, and even reached record levels by 2014.

During the 2015 fiscal year, U.S. beef exports totaled $5.8 billion, with shipments made to 112 countries - equal to the number of countries that received U.S. beef imports in 2003.

Officials from USDA are continuing their efforts to open additional markets for U.S. beef. Since January 2015, USDA has gained market access to U.S. beef in 16 additional countries. Those countries include Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Macau, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Brazil.

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In 2003, China's imports of beef totaled $15 million, of which $10 million was from the United States. In recent years, China's imports have risen dramatically, reaching a record high of $2.3 billion in 2015.

The USDA expects that China will surpass Japan as the second largest importer of beef, with imports estimated at 825,000 tons in 2016.Much of the increase in demand for beef is due to the expansion of China's middle class, making it the world's fastest-growing market for beef.

USDA to survey corn, potato and vegetable growers on chemical use

Over the next several months, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service plans to visit thousands of corn, potato and vegetable growers across the nation to collect information regarding chemical use and production practices.

Data for the survey will be collected by personal interviews. All interviewers are employed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which partners with USDA to conduct face-to-face and phone interviews.

Because of geographic differences in crop harvesting periods, the surveys will continue through January 2017.

The vegetable chemical use survey is part of USDA's efforts to obtain current data about commercial fertilizer and pesticide use, and other pest management practices.

Since 1990, USDA has surveyed U.S. farmers for information on the chemical ingredients they apply to agricultural commodities through fertilizers and pesticides. Each year, USDA alternates the focus of their survey among vegetables, fruit and key field crops.

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Supplies of corn and soybeans up slightly

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, our nation's supply of corn totaled 1.74 billion bushels on Sept. 1, up slightly from a year ago. Meanwhile, soybean supplies, which totaled 197 million bushels on Sept. 1, were up 3 percent from a year earlier.

Of the total corn supply, 627 million bushels were stored on farms, up 6 percent from a year earlier. The amount stored off-farm totaled 1.11 billion bushels, down 2 percent from Sept. 1 last year.

On-farm supplies of soybeans totaled 41.6 million bushels, down 16 percent from a year ago. Off-farm supplies totaled 155 million bushels, up 10 percent from Sept. 1, 2015.

In Minnesota, corn supplies totaled 200 million bushels on Sept. 1, up 6 percent from a year ago and at their highest level since 2006. Of the state's total corn supply, 48 percent was stored on farms.

Soybean supplies in Minnesota totaled 17.2 million bushels, virtually unchanged from one year ago. According to USDA, 22 percent of Minnesota's soybean supply was being stored on farms.

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