At BASF, we use science and innovation to contribute to the success of our customers. For BASF Agricultural Solutions, the customer is many times the farmer, and farmers need Congress to enhance their success through increased export opportunities. That is why passage of Trade Promotion Authority is so critically important and should proceed without delay.
American agriculture is enormously productive. Thanks to technologies developed here in North Carolina at companies like BASF, farmers are producing more with less every day. In fact, because farmers are able to produce more than is needed domestically, the U.S. has a trade surplus in agricultural products, and there is tremendous opportunity to increase exports of food and feed products even further through new trade agreements.
There continues to be a growing demand for U.S. agricultural products around the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three of North Carolina’s top agricultural products have experienced substantial export growth in recent years. Total U.S. exports of pork, chicken and soybeans all increased dramatically between 2005 and 2013: Soybean exports increased from $8.25 billion $21.5 billion, pork exports increased from $1.46 billion to $6 billion, and poultry exports increased from $3.1 billion $5.5 billion.
Across all products, U.S. agricultural exports had a record year in 2014, with exports reaching nearly $152.5 billion. While this demonstrates success, there is still room for improvement as new innovations such as those provided by BASF help make farmers more efficient and productive.
In addition to increased exports, expanded trade means more jobs. The U.S. trade representative estimates that U.S. agricultural exports support 929,000 jobs. This includes jobs both on the farm and off the farm in food processing, storage and transportation, as well as high-tech jobs like BASF has in Research Triangle Park. In order to bring more such jobs to North Carolina and improve access to foreign markets, Congress should pass Trade Promotion Authority.
Currently, the U.S. government is negotiating new trade agreements with countries in the Pacific Rim and Europe that would open up new markets for agricultural products and reduce tariffs. TPA allows Congress and the president to negotiate trade agreements more efficiently. In TPA, Congress sets negotiating priorities for the president to pursue in trade agreements, establishes the rules for how the president must communicate with Congress during the negotiation of those agreements and commits to hold an up-or-down vote, without amendments, on the final trade deal. Therefore, TPA encourages the other countries with which the U.S. is negotiating to put their best offers on the table with respect to agricultural products and a range of other issues.
At BASF, we drive sustainable solutions for agricultural, food and industrial applications by unleashing the potential of innovations for a better life and an improved environment. Congress can multiply those impacts by passing TPA so that the U.S. can realize its full potential in global agricultural trade, a result that would be good for the agriculture industry here in North Carolina with clear benefits for farmers, food processors and companies like BASF.
Peter Eckes is president of BASF Bioscience Research and Paul Rea is senior vice president of BASF Crop Protection North America.