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Looking back on D.C. experiences

A former USDA economist and undersecretary discussed their experiences in D.C. during the virtual James C. Snyder Memorial Lecture by Purdue University.

Ted McKinney, former USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, discussed some of the challenges facing U.S. trade.

“First is an outdated and broken World Trade Organization. I do believe we need a WTO and I think we will get there, but it was outdated, and we needed to upgrade that,” he says. “China’s challenges and opportunities have to rank in the top three (challenges), and also frankly diversifying exports so we’re not beholden to any one country.”

He says pursuing free, fair, and reciprocal trade was a top priority during his time as undersecretary.  

Former USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson says a lot of the last four years was responding to events that ag producers couldn’t plan for and weren’t covered by standing farm bill policies.  

“All that uncertainty and all those challenges came on the back of falling ag commodity prices, declining trade values, multiple government shutdowns, rising debt-asset ratios, rising low non-performance and falling working capital,” he says. “All of that made adjusting to those challenges by producers more difficult. At congress and USDA, we tried to help provide programs efficiently to deliver to producers to help mitigate those challenges in a number of ways. We had farm bill programs, but we also had administration rule-making actions and a lot of ad-hoc programs over the past couple of years.”  

Johansson is now associate director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance.

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