More than 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. The growth opportunities are endless for U.S. agriculture. But it’s necessary to understand the value of international trade and how more Americans can take advantage of it, according to the founding members of the newly launched Agriculture Trade Education Council.
Agriculture leaders from across major food and ag associations announced the formation of the ATEC, a 501 c (3) non-profit that will be a resource for education on the value of agricultural trade policies, practices and structures. The ATEC is chaired by ag leaders with decades of experience educating farmers, policymakers and businesses about how the international trading system works. The ATEC will facilitate education on trade policy on a variety of topics in an effort to grow support for and engagement in a rules-based trading system.
ATEC offers in-person or online training for organizations or for meetings to provide trade training covering trade agreements, Congressional trade policy, the World Trade Organization and more.
In a speech Oct. 26 to the international Tri-National Agriculture Accord, Michael Anderson, an ATEC board member and vice president of trade and industry affairs of the National Corn Refiners, explains, “A more robust understanding of the benefits of trade, market structures and trade rules empowers agriculture producers to compete and adapt to an increasingly competitive global marketplace.”
He adds ATEC was established for the purpose of deepening the understanding of trade’s benefits and international trade’s vital role in the agriculture community. ATEC is uniquely positioned to foster deeper trade education to realize the benefits of trade for agriculture stakeholders.
“As U.S. agricultural stakeholders continue to rely increasingly on trade, it is important to understand how trade works, how the policies established impact U.S. agriculture, and how to engage in trade,” says Becky Rasdall, an ATEC board member and vice president for trade policy and international affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association. “ATEC is here to meet that need and support our agricultural community in better engaging the global market.”
Having already provided some trade policy training for IDFA members and serving as support staff and/or negotiator for at least three agreements through her time at USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative office, Rasdall is well-positioned to advance ATEC’s mission, IDFA adds.
“Helping U.S. dairy understand the increasing globalization of their customer and consumer bases, and how best to understand and use trade policy to access those customers, is something I’m passionate about. But I also recognize that U.S. dairy is clearly not alone in these needs, and so am honored to contribute to the important work ATEC will be putting forward,” Rasdall says.
Brian Kuehl, executive director of the newly formed council, also serves in a similar role for the Farmers for Free Trade effort educating farmers on the importance of trade. Kuehl is a partner and director of government and public affairs at KCoe Isom, a leading American food and agriculture accounting and business advisory firm.
Kuehl says the council’s efforts are “long overdue.” He adds 20% of farm revenues in the United States are derived from exports, and farmers also rely on imports of ag inputs, tractor parts and other essential equipment.
“All of us in U.S. food and agriculture need to understand and be prepared to navigate complex trade rules and dispute resolution structures and participate in trade negotiations. It’s time to get back to the basics of understanding trade and how trade agreements operate. These tools can allow us to expand farm revenues and support the whole food and ag supply chain,” Kuehl says.
North American Meat Institute International Trade Policy Specialist Michael Schumpp has been elected treasurer of the Board of Directors for the newly formed council. ATEC’s board members include: CRA’s Anderson; IDFA’s Rasdall; Melissa Kessler, U.S. Grains Council; Lance Jungmeyer, Fresh Produce Association of America; and Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.