It might just be the random thoughts of a now middle-aged man, who does not feel middle-aged at all, but as I looked at starting this topic of agricultural trade, I thought of something interesting. Something that I had not really thought of before. Then again, maybe I did think of it before but just pushed it aside to a dark recess of my brain only to have some light shone on it today. Whatever the reason, it is in the front of my brain.
When I was in college and learning Linux programming, or was it DOS? Maybe it was Java, C++, HTML, or Novell? Whatever it was, it was a language that I can barely remember today and is only a form of human communication when you are not actually communicating directly with humans. I had a professor tell me that when you run the compiler of your code and something is not coming out correctly, the best approach is usually the last approach anyone tries, and that is to isolate the code line by line and look at it. It is usually the last option people explore because it is the most work, but it is the one option that produces the best results. See? I am sounding like one of your parents, aren’t I?
“Hard work pays off.”
As I start my third paragraph, I am beginning to hear my father’s voice too. “Would you quit rambling, and just get on with it? I am not going to live forever, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for you to get to the point.”
Ok, so to get back to the point at hand. Isolating individual pieces are great when you are trying to look at mistakes. In any project, you will eventually have to find your mistakes and iron them out. However, the downside is that when you look at each individual part with intense scrutiny, you miss the big picture. It is like a puzzle. If someone dumped all the pieces in front of you, without the lid as a reference point, would you know what the whole picture was by looking at one piece? No, you would not. But you would realize where you may have put the wrong two pieces together.
That is the same concept we are seeing with agricultural trade right now. We know all the players we have encountered over the past few years: Canada, Mexico, Japan, Great Britain, the European Union, South Korea, India, many of the African Nations, and of course, China. Do you see that list? That is a lot of countries, is it not? More than I could even bear to mention in one article.
That, right there, is the big picture.
We have spent a lot of time talking about the successes and failures with each individual trading partner, that we have lost sight of an important fact. We have done a lot, and are still doing a lot, with the future of agricultural trade in this country. I mean, just think about all the countries that I mentioned above. Now, think about the countries I did not mention. Central and Southern America, the Pacific Rim, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and the Southern Pacific. That is a lot of countries that we have all mentioned from time to time over the past few years, regarding agricultural trade.
Sorry, Dad. I hear it too.
The point is, when we look at the successes or failures of one trade agreement or the other, we are missing the big picture. We may look at the Chinese Phase One Trade Agreement and note the successes or failures, depending on which analyst you are listening to this week, and we can dwell on those results accordingly. Has the trade agreement been perfect? No. Are we where we want to be? Certainly not. But that is not the point of what I am talking about at this juncture. What I am trying to say is that a lot of work is being done to market your products around the world. Products that allow you to put food on your table, and the tables of those who are buying them. Because do not forget for one moment that your work feeds the world.
Dave Salmonsen is the Senior Director of Congressional Affairs with the American Farm Bureau Federation, and he has a few things to say about trade. He took the time to break down just a few of those trade deals we have working, and the ones we are still working on.
On China, Salmonsen says that we got off to a slow start under phase one, but that the Chinese have really picked up the pace in the latter half of this year. They still have some distance to go in meeting their commitments, but we are in a better place than we were early in 2020.
That is what is happening on the other side of the Pacific. As we look to the other side of the Atlantic, we see work being done to get a trade deal in place with the United Kingdom as they make their “Brexit”. Salmonsen says we need to light a fire under this deal because our Trade Promotion Authority expires next year.
Then there are those pesky pieces that we have to isolate and find the mistakes in. We are not even a year into the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA), and we already must fix a major glitch with the Canadians and dairy. Even though Canadian dairy was one of the many reasons we ditched NAFTA and replaced it with USMCA. Those Canadians found a loophole, and we need to close it.
So, yes, there are those pieces we are going to have to evaluate and fix. Just like that code I wrote years ago in college. JAVA! It was my Java class! I knew I would remember it eventually. But as we isolate those many pieces of global agricultural trade and critique it, do not forget to look back at the big picture. For all the successes and faults, a lot of work has been done by a lot of people to make sure that your products are being marketed to a world that is shrinking day by day. You are feeding many more people with a lot fewer resources, and you still are doing better than anyone else on the planet. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back for all the hard work you have done. But also, do not forget to thank those people who have poured themselves into keeping your products at the forefront of a competitive global marketplace.