WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States exports a large percentage of its agricultural products.
According to the USDA, in 2021, U.S. imports of ag products were nearly identical to its exports at $171 Billion. Its exports to countries like China, skyrocketed in 2022, to $36.4 billion surpassing the previous year's records. With relationships with China comes some concern about who holds the upper hand.
“China has been a player in the last decade or so and a very unreliable player,” said Nathan Keane, President of the Montana Grain Growers Association.
The concern comes from Senator Jon Tester in where China’s priorities and values lie, “Let's do trade agreements with people who have the same values as we do that support democracy, that support human rights, and privacy and all those kinds of things that we value in this country so much.”
Montana and the United States grow some of the highest-quality products in the world. Some markets are better than others which raises concerns when working with international trade markets.
“We have a hard time getting rid of grain because our customers can't buy it.” Charlie Bumgarner explained, a Cascade County Farmer.
Each member of Montana’s Congressional Delegation agrees that the United States needs to quit relying on China for jobs, technology, and food.
Senator Tester says that we can’t ignore the size of the Chinese economy, but there are other countries that should be on our minds, including Japan, Vietnam, and Ukraine.
Most of the world’s food is produced in the heartland of America. The amount that we import raises questions about how the nation values food production.
“It’s a head-scratcher on why we are importing beef in the United States. That's a that's another discussion to be had for a different day. 95% of the world's consumers live outside of the United States, 95%. The future of Montana agriculture will be determined by how well we can develop these overseas markets,” exclaimed Senator Daines.
Ask First Congressional District’s Ryan Zinke and marketing the Made in Montana products is vital to bolster markets.
“Take advantage of that Montana brand, because if you're, a steak house in New York or Washington, D.C., it says Montana, you know, it catches my eye… It's Montana, it must be good, and it is.”
Quality isn’t skimped in America and one major talking point for Montana’s Congressional Delegation is the reference price for wheat set at $5.50 per bushel. Reference prices need to match inflated prices. It’ll be a fight in the Farm Bill when Congress figures out the federal budget, and how to ensure there is a fair world market for all agriculture producers.