Biden Trade Chief Says Fertilizer Tariffs Not Her Responsibility

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai poses for her official portrait Thursday, May 6, 2021, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Stephanie Chasez)

President Biden’s trade ambassador says Commerce officials, not her, are responsible for import tariffs helping inflate the price of fertilizer, a key farm input. It was an awkward moment for U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai as Kansas Senator Jerry Moran brought up a big problem for farmers—the huge spike in fertilizer prices.

“What can you do when talking about phosphates from Morocco? This administration placed countervailing duties on fertilizer ingredients coming from Trinidad and Tobago. What can you do to help lower the cost of imported fertilizer components?”

But Ambassador Tai avoided a direct answer, arguing instead she’s working with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on boosting domestic fertilizer production and not on rolling back import duties.

“The antidumping, countervailing duty programs are run out of Commerce, and your specific question was what can we do at USTR, and that was the filter through which I was responding.” Moran “And so is the answer that you have nothing to do with eliminating those countervailing tariffs and duties at the Department of Commerce?” Tai “They’re not my programs, but I’m happy with Secretary Vilsack to have those conversations with the Commerce Secretary.” Moran “Please, do.”

Separately, the House Appropriations Committee sent to the full House its 27 billion-dollar Fiscal Year 2023 USDA/FDA spending bill, up more than eight percent from this year. Subcommittee Chair Sanford Bishop; “The bill invests more than $545 million for broadband expansion, including $450 million for the Reconnect Program. The bill also provides over 3.1 billion dollars for farm and conservation programs. Investments in this bill support sustainable agricultural improvements to mitigate the consequences of climate change while maintaining high levels of production.”

The bill has more than $4.2 billion for rural water, sewer, and housing, record levels for Ag research, and full funding of the SNAP, child nutrition, and WIC programs.

The panel passed an amendment banning China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran from owning U.S. farmland but killed one to withhold funds from the FDA until it issues a report on its handling of the infant formula crisis.

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