WTO Listening Session
June 16, 1999
|MR. MANNING: Jerry Lee Bogard is a rice farmer from
Stuttgart, Arkansas. Jerry Lee, come to the podium, please.
MR. BOGARD: Thank you very much to Earl and the panel. I certainly thank you for your indulgence today and you have been very attentive which I'm sure everyone here appreciates. It's been a long day and I'll be brief. I want to address an issue that concerns me. I am a licensed farmer in Arkansas. I also have business in Southeast Asia that are rice related in the last five years. Principally in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia (inaudible.) I have an operation in the Western half of (inaudible.) So the issue I want to address today is how when we go to the table and trade and you look at Thailand, for example, we look at an import situation that Thailand is exporting out in the U.S. somewhere upwards of 450 thousand tons this year of what will principally be (inaudible) and Jasmine rice. Now it's interesting to see the correlation when we look at IMF dollars the rise in their exporting capabilities in the United States. Having been inside their system and seen how it works, I know they have many hidden subsidies. The farming population as you know represents considerably less than five percent of our population. However, when you to into a country like Thailand over 50 percent of the population work directly with agriculture with rice being a predominant factor in their system. They subsidize seed; they subsidize fertilizer; they subsidize chemicals, both pesticide as well as herbicide and (inaudible) used.
So when we go to the table and we negotiate positions, we must be aware of the fact that every time we put an IMF dollar for which we fund, we the United States fund a principle portion of that dollar, then we are indirectly subsidizing their production agricultural systems. Now they have increased their production through technological advances, which we have also. I would cite to you their recent development of a nonphotosensitive variety of this particular product so popular here in the U.S., Jasmine rice. They hope to increase their production to over one million tons in 2002. They could not do this without our indirect assistance in the production of agriculture.
Now I'm not here trying to tell you that you need to redirect our foreign policy through this particular panel, but I am saying to you that these are issue are very sensitive and they directly affect our American agriculture. Final point, Thailand has the highest herbicidal residue content in their food products than any country in the world. We do not make them test and produce a certificate in a country where we are so health conscious, and the average consumer is so aware of what we, production agriculture, may or may not use in terms of and (inaudible) in terms of what we spray our grain products with. I think it makes very little sense for us to subsidize indirectly a system that exports into our country large volumes of grain while we have historically low prices today and do not have to adhere to the same environmental standards, whether it be phytosanitary conditions or test for herbicidal residue or (inaudible) residue in their products and have to label them. Certainly on cigarette we have read the label. I would say to you that any level of herbicide residue that is as high and rated the highest content in the world, it's something that certainly should be a negotiating tool when we look at cross trade.
When there are no facts (inaudible) taxes or duties and tariffs a very, very small amounts
of tariffs on a place where (inaudible). Yet, when I sell them a product over there, I have to pay 27 percent. So it makes little sense when we're dealing with countries, developing nations, whose populations the vast majority of which work in production agriculture and we represent such a small portion, we have to be realistic in what the issues. We're not going to change the Asian culture or mind set necessarily, nor are we going to change, in my opinion, the European's determination to seek out underdeveloping nations by subsidizing exports. However, we can be smart about how we cross trade, what the line should be in terms of the issues that are raised, and I thank you very much.
MR. SCHUMACHER: Very briefly, I wasn't aware that on the issue of the chemical residue?
MR. BOGARD: Yes.
MR. SCHUMACHER: How do you indicate that that is just generally specifically Jasmine rice imported in the country?
MR. BOGARD: I was being specific to rice. Let me tell you, I worked in a field study with the Department of Agriculture in Thailand in conjunction with the Rice Research Institute beginning in 1994 running through '97. There were no restrictions -- for example, airborne spores and airborne fungus are common in the U.S. called blasts (phonetic). It's very common in the tropical regions of Thailand. Jasmine rice is one of the most susceptible varieties in the world of blasts, okay? We are restricted to a very small number of products that we spray on our rice for blasts, for protection, plant protection. We are also restricted from the timing of that because of the residue and the fungicide with can be harmful if applied to their harvest. It may be maybe carried over on the grain for consumption. There are no restrictions. I've seen it in Thailand and Vietnam both. I have seen them apply ten times. I've seen them apply it up to five days before harvesting, even though that made little or no economic sense. My point is there are no restrictions. They're using heavy metals. The gentleman from Louisiana that referred to DDT? That's common. They have snails in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia they're a big, big problem for them. They're like the army worm in the U.S., so to speak. The way they eradicate snails is with DDT. Other pesticides that have been restricted for use here 25, 30 years ago, it's a common practice there.
Now I'm not saying to you that we should go over there and tell them that, you can't use this anymore because if it's economically feasible for them to consume that in their domestic society, so be it. But what I am saying to you is for them to bring that same product here in the United States, and it began on the eastern seaboard, but to increase the involve for funding indirectly were giving them for production agriculture and then for them not to even have to check or relate what it's been sprayed with or determine what the levels of residue are is ludicrous. We would be hauled up before a federal judge if we were to subject our customers here in the U.S. to that sort of a product. In fact, if we did that, our products would be quarantined and we would not be allowed to sell them and would have to be disposed of in some sort of incinerator.
So to bring mass quantities into this country under those conditions and not be very aware of that, you raise these sort of issues further creates, quote, unquote an unlevel playing field. I thank you very much.
MR. MANNING: I would like to thank all of the presenters. You have stated your case very clearly and have addressed the topics that were under consideration and we're indebted to you. We're also indebted to the panel for coming today and to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for hosting this arrangement. Do we have any closing remarks from the Department of State?
MS. WINTON: Only to thank all of the presenters for making their statements. I took very careful notes and will bring back all 20 statements to the policymakers as we prepare for the next round. So thank you all.
MR. MANNING: The U.S. Trade Representative?
MS. CUMMINGS: Again, my thanks and it's always a pleasure to get out of Washington and both for substance and also for a change of venue and I appreciated the opportunity to hear your comments. I thought they were all well articulated and of substance and as Amy said, we will take it back to the USTR and hope to continue the dialogue back in Washington when your representatives come through. Thank you very much.
MR. MANNING: And from the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Schumacher, do you have any closing remarks?
MR. SCHUMACHER: I think we should give Earl -- he's the dean and he was very patient today with us. I want to thank him for doing a wonderful full job.
MR. MANNING: Commissioner Wheeler, as we noted earlier had to leave, but Louis do you have and parting words for the Commission.
MR. LOUIS: Let me assure you that I'm here I'm not going to talk long in the interests of time, but I do want to say a lot of thank yous. Thank you our staff, Joe Hanes and his folks who have done all the hard work to make this happen. Mr. Manning has been mentioned as the dean of our ag journalism in this part of the world. He's also a distinguished southern gentleman, which we take very seriously down here. I recall about a month ago being at a political rally. A lot of us can relate to that perhaps up here. The moderator had a calendar saying something interesting about an elected official followed by an elected official followed by an elected official. By the end of the day all that was left to say was everything has been said but not everybody has had a chance to say it. So that was a good talking session. I think today was a good listening session and I appreciate our friends from Washington who have come down to Tennessee to listen. That doesn't happen that often. I think today we had a lot of diverse opinions, a lot of diverse economy, a lot of diverse agriculture and forestry. Hopefully you will take back some strong themes and messages and we appreciate that. Our state seal in Tennessee has two prominent words on there, agriculture and commerce. That made sense 200 years ago. Commerce was reflected by a river boat because all the markets were down river. I guess in a big world they're down river (inaudible). But a lot of opportunities in my hometown of Addison, Tennessee, in Robertson County. Folks that latch together (inaudible) in the back country and send that down river and stopped here in Memphis or made its way to New Orleans. A lot of value has been added since then but trade was important then and it's important now. Hopefully 200 years from now we're all successful in our negotiations the successful, agriculture and commerce will still make sense. So we appreciate your attendance and patience, your willingness to participate. Have a good strip, a safe trip home. Thank you. (Session concluded at approximately 4:30 p.m.)