Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Idaho dairy representatives like Crapo vote on trade

The Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA), Idaho’s largest dairy producer trade association, and Glanbia Foods Inc., Idaho’s largest dairy processor, express our sincerest thanks to Sen. Mike Crapo for his recent support of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. The bill, more commonly referred to as the trade promotion authority (TPA) bill, recently passed 20-6 with strong bipartisan support through the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

The TPA bill is critically necessary to allow the United States to negotiate the best trade agreements possible. Progressive trade agreements will promote American growth and jobs by enabling Idaho businesses to market more U.S. goods and services to foreign customers.

Exports are a crucial part of Idaho agriculture. The 2014 Agricultural Facts, published earlier this year by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, showed that 2013 Idaho agriculture exports totaled $2.59 billion, equal to 31 percent of total Idaho cash receipts from agriculture. Dairy exports totaled $428 million, second only to wheat, where exports reached more than a half-billion dollars. Four additional Idaho agriculture sectors — processed vegetables, beef, fresh vegetables and animal feed — exported products worth over $100 million during the year.

Seven countries out of the top 10 export markets for Idaho agricultural products are part of current trade negotiations, including six that are part of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Of these seven countries, the U.S. dairy industry currently enjoys mostly free trade with only one: Mexico. The TPA bill will provide our trade negotiators with increased leverage to further open markets with our trading partners, such as Japan and Canada, which make it very difficult, if not impossible, to export many of our dairy products to these two countries.

The Idaho dairy industry’s experience with previous free trade agreements with Mexico and South Korea has been extremely positive.

Since 1990, U.S. cheese exports to Mexico have increased at an average rate of 7.4 million pounds per year, reaching 182 million pounds in 2014 for an average growth rate of over 17 percent, with the big uplift in sales occurring after our agreement with Mexico was enacted in January 1994.

Our agreement with South Korea, which went into effect in March 2012, has provided the U.S. dairy industry with tariff-free access to their cheese markets. Cheese exports to South Korea in 2014 were double the 2011 level. In fact, South Korea was the top world destination for U.S. cheese for several months during 2014, surpassing Mexico for the first time ever.

The Idaho dairy industry has benefited greatly from the pro-business focus of leaders like Sen.Crapo. Our industry has grown far beyond the consumption needs of our state’s citizens, and in the process brought thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars into the state through dairy product sales across the U.S. and the world. For that growth to continue, the United States must look to open new foreign markets for our goods and services.

We view expanding our dairy export markets as a primary path for the continued growth and success for the Idaho dairy industry, providing new markets for Idaho farm milk and good-paying jobs for our communities. We thank Sen.Crapo for his understanding of this vision, and for his support of TPA.

Bob Naerebout is executive director of Idaho Cattlemen’s Association Inc. and Daragh Maccabee is executive vice president and CFO of Glanbia Foods Inc.