Sonny Perdue: U.S. won’t back down on milk demand from Canada

September 27, 2018       –       Jacob Bunge
The U.S. won’t back down from efforts to get Canada to eliminate its dairy-farming support programs, which have become a sticking point in U.S.-Canada trade talks, said U.S. Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“I’m hoping Canada comes to the realization that we’re not going to give up on the dairy issue,” Mr. Perdue said.
Canadian officials say the program curbs Canada’s contribution to global oversupplies of milk, but the U.S. has criticized it as unfair protectionism.
“They’ve got themselves in a political bind by having such a sweet deal for their dairymen at the expense of their consumers,” Mr. Perdue said.
As for China, Mr. Perdue said he expects the U.S.-China trade battle will take a bite out of soybean acreage, even though the USDA’s official projections for 2019 crop-planting won’t be out for a few months.
China’s heft as a soybean purchaser—acquiring roughly one-third of U.S. production to feed its hogs, among other uses—has pushed U.S. soybean prices sharply lower after China implemented tariffs in July. Next year, Mr. Perdue said, U.S. farmers are likely to replace some soybean acres with corn, sugar beets and other crops, unless soybean prices rebound.
Meanwhile, Mr. Perdue said the European Union’s move this summer to break with the U.S. on gene-edited crops was “a serious mistake.”
The U.S. has determined that crops altered with gene-editing technologies like Crispr-Cas9—which let scientists change DNA without incorporating new genes—don’t need to be regulated like biotech crops enhanced with outside DNA. An EU court ruling this summer took the opposite tack, regulating gene editing the same as earlier genetically modified crops, which the seed industry says effectively closes off the EU market.
Mr. Perdue said that in time, EU consumers will want gene-edited crops, and regret the decision.
“They can only build that wall so long,” he said.
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