While the American Soybean Association (ASA) supports initiatives to improve government efficiency and eliminate redundancy, we have strong concerns about at least one aspect of the President’s proposal, and that is with the plan to merge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with other trade agencies. We believe that USTR should remain an independent agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), focusing on trade negotiations, trade agreements and trade enforcement. By being an independent office within the Executive Office of the President, USTR serves a critical function in supporting and balancing the divergent trade interests of each sector of the U.S. economy, while consistently advocating the reduction of trade barriers. USTR’s efforts have been vital to the growth of American agricultural exports. We are concerned that folding USTR into a massive Department of Commerce or Industry structure would significantly weaken the coordination role played by USTR on trade interests across sectors, and the work on agricultural trade opportunities and barriers would be diminished. We therefore support continuing the current structure and functions of the Office of the U.S Trade Representative. 

The U.S. soybean industry exported a record 1.5 billion bushels of soybeans in the 2010/2011 marketing year as a direct result of the dedication of soybean farmers coupled with fertile export markets. With the support of USTR, the federal government took great strides toward ensuring the continued development of these markets with the passage of free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. This progress toward opening new markets for farmers and ranchers must be enhanced, not diminished, under any consolidation proposal.

ASA looks forward to closely examining the trade agency consolidation proposed by the President today. We will work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that market opening and trade enforcement efforts for agricultural goods will not be diminished under any final plan. Agricultural exports are just too important to our nation’s economy, rural America, soybean farmers, and the livestock industries we supply.