In a strongly-worded letter to the White House, the National Milk Producers Federation last week urged the Bush Administration’s trade negotiators not to yield ground to other parties involved in the World Trade Organization talks unless additional farm policy concessions are put on the table by others countries involved in the negotiations.

The letter, which was co-signed by 11 different farm and commodity groups in addition to NMPF, reminded the White House that “a very generous U.S. offer” to reduce domestic farm programs was put forward in October 2005, but was conditioned on increased market access for American farm products, including dairy foods, in other world markets.

The letter states: “it seems clear that other countries have pocketed the U.S.offer…without being prepared to even come close to the U.S. proposal on increasing market access in both developed and developing countries.” The U.S. farm groups said that other countries, including those of the European Union, are now actually asking for “even greater concessions in domestic support” without offering any more concessions of their own.

“Under these circumstances, we believe that it is important to make clear that American agriculture can simply not support any deeper cuts in domestic support than those already proposed by the  Administration,” the NMPF letter said. “If negotiators are forced to scale back the level of ambition from the U.S. proposal on agricultural market access in order to reach an agreement, the level of ambition in cutting trade-distorting domestic support must be commensurately reduced from the U.S. proposal.”

The WTO talks are reaching a critical phase, with negotiators set to meet again in Switzerland at the end of June to discuss ways of reducing domestic supports and increasing market access to imports.

NMPF also reminded the White House that former U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman last September told the Senate Agriculture Committee that “we will not consider changes to our own programs unless the other WTO members commit to open their markets to our goods and agree to reduce their own subsidy and trade-distorting programs.  I will not sign on to any agreement that does not provide a more level playing field.” Last October, Portman said he continued “to be very disappointed that the E.U. did not reciprocate with a similar level of ambition on market access as we offered on domestic support."

The letter to the White House reminded Administration negotiators that “U.S. agriculture has strongly supported the Doha WTO round as a means of balancing the global playing field, and tackling the many inequities in world agricultural markets.” But any additional compromise by the U.S. is “only acceptable if the negotiations yield an important net gain for American farmers and ranchers” through firm commitments on market access and other trade-distorting policies by America’s trading partners.

National Milk Producers Federation