David L. Ortega Addresses U.S. House Committee on the Importance of U.S.-China Relations in Agriculture

Ortega, MSU agricultural economist, briefed U.S. House on U.S.-China ag relations: trade challenges, need for dialogue.

David L. Ortega Addresses U.S. House Committee on the Importance of U.S.-China Relations in Agriculture

David L. Ortega Addresses U.S. House Committee on the Importance of U.S.-China Relations in Agriculture

On March 20th, 2024, David L. Ortega, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, delivered testimony to the United States House of Representatives Agriculture Committee. With his extensive expertise in food and agricultural economics, Dr. Ortega shed light on the intricate dynamics of U.S.-China relations within the agricultural sector.

Dr. Ortega commenced his remarks by emphasizing the pivotal role of the United States-China relationship in American agriculture. He underscored how China's status as the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports significantly impacts the prosperity of American farmers and rural economies. In 2023 alone, China accounted for a staggering $29.08 billion in U.S. agricultural exports, encompassing a diverse array of products such as soybeans, corn, beef, and poultry. This robust trade relationship, however, faced substantial challenges due to the U.S.-China trade conflict from 2018 to 2020, resulting in significant disruptions and financial losses for American farmers.

The repercussions of the trade conflict reverberated across global agricultural markets, with U.S. soybean exports to China plummeting from $12.2 billion in 2017 to just $3.1 billion in 2018. Dr. Ortega highlighted how the Phase One Agreement aimed to alleviate tensions by increasing China's agricultural purchases from the U.S., yet China's fulfillment of these commitments remained partial by the end of 2021. Consequently, the U.S. government implemented the Market Facilitation Program to provide aid to affected farmers and ranchers, underscoring the profound ramifications of the trade conflict on American agriculture.

Amidst these challenges, concerns over foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land, particularly by Chinese entities, have garnered significant attention. Dr. Ortega provided a comprehensive overview of foreign land ownership in the U.S., emphasizing the need to address data accessibility and accuracy issues. While Chinese ownership represents a small fraction of foreign holdings, Dr. Ortega emphasized the importance of understanding its implications on farmland prices, rental rates, and food security.

Contrary to misconceptions, Dr. Ortega clarified that Chinese ownership does not significantly impact U.S. agricultural production or resource management. He underscored the imperative of fostering balanced and informed dialogue to secure the prosperity of American agriculture. Dr. Ortega concluded by expressing gratitude to the Committee for the opportunity to contribute to this crucial discussion, emphasizing the significance of maintaining a respectful and nuanced approach to U.S.-China agricultural relations.

Dr. Ortega's testimony elucidated the complex interplay between U.S.-China relations and American agriculture, offering valuable insights for policymakers and stakeholders alike.

Read the full piece here.

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