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FACG Summer Meeting Reveals New Food Assistance Priorities

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) participated in the summer meeting of the Food Aid Consultative Group (FACG). FACG is a public/private forum mandated in the farm bill to provide a platform for U.S. government agencies to interact with private sector counterparts including Private Voluntary Organizations, agricultural trade groups and Maritime on food assistance priorities. This was the first meeting under the Biden Administration.
 
While several ongoing humanitarian crises will continue to receive significant attention, there were several new initiatives introduced to the agricultural trade community that hint at a change in resource allocation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant effect on global food assistance programming, and several new concerns were outlined that will likely impact future food assistance programming for the foreseeable future.
 
The dire food security outlook in Yemen will remain a top food aid priority as the situation is now compounded by COVID. Officials from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also outlined new funding allocations and priority assistance for the people of Tigray, Ethiopia in response to civil conflict and a severe humanitarian crisis.
Another priority area of focus in the coming year will be food assistance to Madagascar, as southern Madagascar is on the verge of a famine due to a severe drought impacting over a million people.
 
Two new areas outlined during the meeting include ongoing concerns regarding the price volatility of commodities used in food aid, and the need to provide new funding to food assistance programs in the Golden Triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) as part of the Administration’s Immigration reform initiative.
 
USDBC anticipates a strong need for all U.S. agricultural commodities, including dry beans. While beans have not been shipped to Yemen for food assistance as anticipated, the organization hopes to see a return to beans in the food aid basket for Yemen in second half 2021. USDBC has continued to work with USDA, USAID and other food assistance staff to continue to promote the use of dry beans in global food aid programs.

Retaliatory Tariff Removal Discussions Press Forward

Since June 2018, the European Union (EU) has applied 25% retaliatory tariffs on the import of select U.S. agricultural products, including dry beans. The tariffs were applied in response to a Section 232 case that resulted in the application of tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum. 
 
Almost since the day the tariffs went into effect, the U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) has been advocating for their removal. Earlier this month, the United Kingdom government announced its determination at the conclusion of the commentary period to remove dry beans from the retaliation list. This is expected to take three to four months.
 
At the same time, during several conferences held between U.S. and EU trade authorities on the sidelines of the recent G-7 meeting in the UK, EU trade authorities also announced their optimism that the tariff dispute will be resolved by years’ end.
 
While there are still details to confirm and some more work to be done, indications are the by the end of 2021 the 25% retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. dry beans to the UK and the EU will be removed. The USDBC will continue to monitor and report on this situation as soon as final determinations are issued.

USDBC Submits Unified Export Strategy

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) submitted the annual Unified Export Strategy (UES) for the 2022 program year to USDA/FAS. The UES is the comprehensive annual global strategy for the U.S. dry bean industry that details the market conditions, constraints, opportunities, activities, and benchmarks in current and emerging export markets.
 
While strategies change from year to year to reflect the current global and market specific realities, the 2022 application underwent a particularly significant rewrite. This is due to a number of global trends, including:
 
  • The lingering impact of COVID and the desire for shelf stable healthy food.
  • Increasing popularity of plant slant and plant based diets.
  • A desire to eat foods that are sustainably produced.
  • A growing interest in bean ingredients such as flours.
  • An optimistic outlook regarding the resolution of long standing tariff disputes that have limited U.S. dry bean exports to certain markets. 
The application also addresses long standing trade policy constraints, such as:
  • The lack of harmonization and missing global tolerances for pesticides (MRLs), ongoing retaliatory tariffs in critical markets.
  • Lack of compliance with existing trade agreements that allow zero duty.
  • Zero quota imports of U.S. dry beans.
  • The need to produce evidence of the U.S. dry bean industry’s sustainable farming practices. 
Funding decisions and allocations will be announced in fall 2021.

New Global Maximum Residue Limit Initiative

Last week, the U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) began work on a new initiative to tackle the global challenges of low or zero tolerance levels on pesticides/herbicides by launching the Crop Protection Action Coalition for Trade (CPACT). CPACT is funded through the USDA/FAS’ Global Broad-Based Initiatives (GBI) program, as it is a USDBC led coalition of like-minded agricultural trade organizations that also includes the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council and USA Rice. 

CPACT will work in tandem with U.S. government efforts to address the challenges of low or zero-tolerance Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs). The objective of this work is to ensure that MRLs are based on sound science and not hazard-based systems, nor rely on the use of the precautionary principle. Hazard and precautionary principle-based systems are prohibitive and tend to be guided more by consumer advocacy than science.

CPACT will work in tandem with global U.S. government initiatives to negotiate reasonable tolerances and will also carve out its own private sector agenda. USDBC has retained the services of the North Hill Group to assist in the implementation of this project.

Earlier this week, project principles met to begin discussions on how this public/private partnership will be implemented, review upcoming global meetings with counterparts and discuss the ramp-up period that will likely take the next few months. A meeting with private sector participants will be scheduled over the next month and a CPACT website tracking issues and events will launch in the coming weeks.

USDBC Outlines Top Three Trade Policy Areas

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) continues to pursue an ambitious trade policy agenda into the third quarter of 2021 as key U.S. government trade personnel are confirmed and/or appointed. 
 
The organization is addressing numerous trade policy priorities around the globe, and has identified the top three as:
  1. Removal of EU/UK tariffs – U.S. dry bean imports to the EU and UK continue to face 25 percent retaliatory tariffs as a result of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. While the respective governments have agreed to suspend tariffs in the Airbus/Boeing dispute, the steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliatory response predates this and has not been resolved. USDBC has already sent letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be reaching out to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to ask for the suspension of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. dry bean imports.
  2. Dominican Republic (DR) Adherence to Duty-Free, Quota-Free Imports – Since the full implementation of the CAFTA/DR trade agreement last year, U.S. dry beans imports can enter the Dominican republic duty-free with no limit to tonnage. While this should be beneficial to both sides, it has instead resulted in market protection mechanisms by the DR to limit the amount of U.S dry beans entering the country, especially during peak local harvest. This is in direct violation of the trade agreement. USDBC has been in long-standing talks with USDA/FAS Santo Domingo and will be meeting with USTR officials this week.
  3. Low or Zero-tolerance MRLs – USDBC remains concerned about the continued proliferation of low or zero MRLs/tolerances for pesticides/herbicides. Many of the most important export markets continue to veer away from Codex and impose unrealistic tolerances levels that will result in a disruption of trade. USDBC is particularly concerned about the EU and Mexico. An RFP to bring on a technical specialist to assist has been issued in a new initiative to help address this ongoing area of concern worldwide.

USDBC Awarded Global Broad-Based Initiative Grants

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) was awarded two new Global Broad-Based Initiative (GBI) grants from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). GBI grants are focused on cross-cutting policy issues that impact trade for a variety of agricultural commodities. USDBC will serve as the project lead and will work together with other commodity groups in the implementation. 
 
Raising Awareness of Pulse Nutrition will promote U.S. dry beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas among public and private health institutions. This will be done through focused training on the nutritional benefits within health institutions and the manufacturing sector of the food industry in Latin America. It will also target consumers through social media to influence purchase decisions.The Crop Protection Action Coalition for Trade will collaborate with FAS for a global capacity building program to harmonize international MRLs with Codex standards.
 
USDBC will be working together with other collaborators to get these initiatives up and running over the next month. Together, the two awards add another $400,000 to USDBC’s global export development programs.

USDBC Winter Board Meeting Outlines a Busy 2021

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) concluded its winter board meeting virtually last week. During the meeting, USDBC outlined numerous initiatives for 2021 that capitalize on continued strong global demand for U.S. dry beans.
 
The initiatives outlined include:
  •  A new staffing pattern for Latin America (not including Mexico) resulting in enhanced market coverage and in country presence.
  • Global U.S. dry bean value proposition research revealing key messaging to be incorporated into future strategies.
  • Analysis of the current threat to dry bean trade posed by low or zero tolerance MRLs in Vietnam as a template for future global research and recommended response.
  • Ongoing work on dry bean innovation focused on bean flour and ready to eat dishes with beans, to become part of USDBC’s domestic and global promotion work.
  • Enhanced global social media and PR campaigns in all programs while travel remains limited.
  • Ongoing pivot to virtual trade missions for Q1 2021 with UK/EU up next.
  • Final push for BeanCon21 registrations, matchmaking for business sessions, pre-production of all panels set to begin early this month.

Dry Bean Scene

The dry bean industry has outlined policy priorities for the incoming Presidential Administration. Resolving the ongoing trade dispute and tariffs with the EU is top of mind, along with a trade agreement between the U.S. and the UK. Hear more from U.S. Dry Bean Council Executive Director Rebecca Bratter in the latest Dry Bean Scene.

Grady Thorsgard - Harvest (black and pinto)

Dry Bean Harvest Video Released

In fall 2020, the U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) captured footage of dry bean harvest to use it to tell the industry’s story. It also aids in communicating critical production and quality information with international buyers and other key audiences. USDBC partnered with teams from FLM Harvest and Torchwerks to travel around the Midwest. The photo shoots and interviews include farmers, processors and dealers from four states, including both North Dakota and Minnesota.

US Dry Bean 2020 Harvest Presentation from USDBC on Vimeo.

Special Announcement: BeanCon21

The U.S. Dry Bean Council is hosting the first ever global dry bean conference, bringing together dry bean buyers and stakeholders from all over the world.
 
Due to ongoing COVID restrictions, BeanCon21 will be a virtual experience. While USDBC would’ve loved to meet in person, the organization is excited about the opportunity to connect virtually and share the exciting innovations happening in the U.S. and global bean industries with an even broader audience.
 
BeanCon21 is a forum focused on bean innovation, trends and the future of food. In addition to innovative plenary sessions, BeanCon21 will feature opportunities for private business meetings, networking, chef presentations, harvest highlights and more. Check out the agenda.