WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), Chair of the New Democrat Coalition and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Tim Walz (D-MN), member of the House Agriculture Committee, today sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging them to make full use of all of the World Trade Organization’s tools to address issues that have continued to prohibit U.S. dairy exports from having fair access to the Russian market.
“Wisconsin exported a record $2.85 billion worth of agricultural products in 2011, an increase of 18 percent over 2010,” said Rep. Kind. “Clearly, exporting is a growth opportunity for our producers. Establishing normal trade relations with Russia and holding them accountable through the World Trade Organization not only expands diplomatic and economic engagement in the growing Russian marketplace but creates increased economic opportunities for dairy farmers in Wisconsin and across the country.”
“For years, southern Minnesota’s dairy producers have been shut out of Russia’s $2 billion dollar dairy import market due to restrictive trade barriers,” said Rep. Walz. “Last week, the House overwhelmingly voted to allow U.S.-Russian trade to become unconditional and competitive. Granting U.S. farmers, ranchers and dairy producers unfettered access to the world’s sixth largest economy, in addition to the full arsenal of WTO trade rules, is a big victory for the future growth and competitiveness of U.S. agricultural exporters.”
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6156, The Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 late last week. The bill, which establishes normal trade relations with Russia and gives the U.S. the ability to challenge Russia’s discriminatory trade practices, will move to the Senate for approval.
Kind and Walz write, “When [the bill], is signed into law and the U.S. permanently grants Russia normal trade relations, the United States will be able to use the WTO’s mechanisms to address Russia’s non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to American dairy exports. We strongly urge you to consider using the WTO’s mechanisms to reopen these markets and ensure that American dairy producers and processors have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field in the Russian market.”
International trade has a net positive effect on the agricultural economy. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, export revenues account for 26 percent of Wisconsin farm cash receipts in 2010. Wisconsin exported more than $230 million worth of dairy products in 2011. As the number one producer of cheese in the United States, Wisconsin ranked second in the nation for the export of cheese in 2011 ($106 million).
In 2011, U.S. exports of cheese, total whey products, lactose and other dairy products reached record levels, valued at $4.82 billion, up 30 percent from 2010 totals of $3.71 billion. National exports have increased 21 percent annually over the last eight years.