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European Agriculture Study Tour--The Farm Bill Debate and Trade Negotiations

Missy Shelton reports from Europe on a journalism study tour funded by the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan American Public Policy and grantmaking institution that promotes trans-Atlantic relations. She's among eleven journalists taking part in an agriculture study tour. In this installment of the European Agriculture Study Tour series, Missy Shelton gives us the US and European perspectives on the farm bill that Congress is slated to reauthorize this year. The debate directly bears on local farmers in Southwest Missouri who receive subsidies since subsidies are the main sticking point in international trade negotiations.

You've got two agricultural negotiations or debates playing out at the same time...In the U-S, Congress is working this year on reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which includes farm subsidies...on the international level, Doha Round negotiations drag on at the World Trade Organization...What happens in Congress is closely tied to W-T-O negotiations as negotiators wait to see what the US will or will not change about its farm subsidies, especially subsidies that other countries perceive to be trade-distorting. Garrett Hawkins is Director of National Legislative Programs for the Missouri Farm Bureau.

This is all very relevant to Missouri farmers who receive subsidies. It's also relevant to the European Union negotiators and E-U farm interests. Shelby Matthews is Director of General Affairs for COPA/COGECA, a group that represents European farmers and cooperatives. She balks at the notion that reducing US farm subsidies will reduce US leverage in trade negotiations.

Matthews contends the E-U has made concessions throughout the negotiations while the U-S hasn't budged.

But the Missouri Farm Bureau says the U-S offer is quite generous...so generous in fact, some farming interests are uneasy about it. The gap between the US and EU positions was the topic of discussion when the E-U Agriculture Commissioner Mary Ann Fischer Boale was in Missouri in May for the World Agriculture Forum...The Missouri Farm Bureau's Garrett Hawkins had a chance to visit with her.

E-U officials argue they have come to the table...And Shelby Matthews with COPA/COGECA says the E-U has made substantial offers.

At issue is what qualifies as a substantial reduction in tariffs, the tax on imported agriculture products from the U-S.

Garrett Hawkins with the Missouri Farm Bureau says the current offer from the E-U doesn't go far enough.

An ongoing discussion at the global trade level and at the local level...as Congress works on reauthorizing the Farm Bill.