Block Says US-European Trade Battles Easing
Jan. 23, 1986
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Agriculture Secretary John R. Block says the falling value of the dollar and new market-oriented farm programs are taking some of the fire out of the trade battles between the United States and the European Economic Community.
The United States is the world's largest exporter of agricultural products, and the EEC is one of the American farmer's biggest customers. One of the bloc's members, West Germany, is the world's largest importer of farm products.
Block has been a critic of the EEC's highly subsidized system under the Common Agricultural Policy, and the 12-nation alliance's use of export subsidies to dispose of surplus commodities.
In a satellite news conference beamed to Europe on Wednesday by the United States Information Agency's Worldnet, Block said that ''agriculture is a global industry'' and should move freely in international markets.
''It's absolutely insane for us to build barriers around our countries,'' he said. ''We should be raising and selling whatever we're good at. We shouldn't be raising and selling something if we can't compete.''
Block said the Food Security Act of 1985, which maps out declining price supports and income subsidies for American grain and cotton farmers over the next five years, ''should be viewed as providing some leadership, some example to the agriculturally developed countries.''
Block, who last year warned that the trading partners were on the verge of a trade war over import restrictions and export subsidies, said there are encouraging signs that freer trade will eventually come about.
''We still have a lot of serious frictions,'' he said, noting problems over trade in citrus and pasta in particular. ''I think these things can be solved. As the dollar does weaken, we may see this whole thing improve for all of us.''
Block said the EEC also is showing increased flexibility on the need for changes in its agricultural policy.
''I have seen a dramatic change in what European leaders say today as opposed to four or five years ago. They recognize that we're (all) spending too much money on farm supports'' and that changes are needed, he said.
''I don't know how soon Europe will be able to address this politically,'' he added, noting that once subsidies are in place they become difficult to rescind. ''But international pressures will encourage some kind of solution to be forthcoming.
''We already have enough food, so there's no reason for a public policy to promote increased production,'' as price support programs tend to do, he said.
According to the Agriculture Department, EEC countries bought $5.37 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, down from $6.72 billion in 1983-84 and $10.1 billion in 1982-83.
The value slump is expected to level off this year, with 1985-86 sales to the EEC forecast at $5.3 billion.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Mid-January's relatively mild weather relieved stress on livestock and winter crops, according to the government's Joint Agricultural Weather Facility.
But even with the higher temperatures during the week of Jan. 12-18, the lack of moisture limited the growth of winter grain crops in most areas, the facility said Wednesday.
''Wheat was mostly fair to good, but limited snow cover or no snow cover left wheat unprotected from cold weather from the central plains on southward,'' the report said. ''The mild weather allowed farmers to continue row crop harvest in most areas.''
The cotton harvest neared completion in Texas and Oklahoma, and a few fields remained to be harvested in Arizona and California, the report said.
Corn and soybean harvesting, delayed by wet fields last fall, also showed signs of winding up in some areas. Michigan farmers finished with corn but still had some soybeans left. In South Dakota, about 8 percent of the corn crop was still to be harvested, and in Wisconsin about 20 percent remained.
''Warm weather eased livestock stress and (the need) for supplemental feeding,'' the report said. ''Livestock was in mostly good condition, and melting snow allowed grazing in some northern states. Hay shortages were becoming more widespread.''
The facility is operated jointly by the departments of Agriculture and Commerce.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Agriculture Department says the Soviet Union has bought an additional 100,000 metric tons of U.S. corn - about 3.94 million bushels - for delivery this year.
Officials said Wednesday the sales were reported to USDA by private exporters as required by law. No prices or other details were disclosed.
The department says the latest estimated price of corn is about $2.27 per bushel at the farm. A metric ton is about 2,205 pounds and is equal to 39.4 bushels of corn or 36.7 bushels of wheat or soybeans.
Thus, the latest sales would have an estimated farm value of about $9 million.
Under a five-year agreement, which began its third year last Oct. 1, the Soviet Union is committed to buy at least nine million tons of wheat and corn annually. At least four million tons of that must be wheat and four million tons corn.
So far the Soviets have bought nearly 6.3 million tons of grain, including 6.12 million tons of corn and 152,600 tons of wheat for delivery in 1985-86. In addition, the Soviets have bought 200,000 tons of soybeans.