U.S. steel import quotas continue to affect American agriculture. Six weeks ago, Russia slapped a ban on the import of American poultry to retaliate for the steel quotas. The ban roiled poultry markets and pressured red meat markets.
Now, American fruit producers are worried about a European Union threat to impose 100 percent tariffs on American fruit in retaliation for the U.S. steel quotas. The proposed tariffs would target Oregon and Washington apples and pears, and Florida grapefruit. Commodity producers also are being buffeted by decisions made in other corners of government and by mandates drawn in corporate boardrooms.
With the market for lean beef getting tighter, and costs on the rise, fast food leader McDonald's has started to purchase burger for domestic use from foreign markets like Australia. Company officials say the meat fits their parameters for price and production while being free of diseases like Mad Cow and Foot and Mouth. But folks in cattle country see the move as having more to do with bolstering the company's bottom line than dwindling supply.
American producers have also had to deal with other changes affecting their markets around the world.
Europe is a case in point. There...production has switched from a commodity based structure to one that satisfies consumers wants and needs. Following that lead, the European Union Commission, in a nod to the objections of consumer groups and health organizations, has approved regulations prohibiting sub-therapuetic use of antibiotics to promote growth in animals. This move coincides with a previous measure that banned antibiotics in feed that are prescribed to fight diseases in humans. The new rules are expected to take effect in 2006. The only exception has been given to poultry production but the regulations covering the use of these drugs will be stricter.
The new rules will undoubtedly effect the estimated $120-million export market of meat poultry and egg sold to EU countries. Part and parcel to these regulations will be maximum residue limits, or MRLs, designed to prevent adverse effects on human heath. The MRL's would allow for the use of antibiotics to treat disease but prevent side effects in consumers like antibiotic resistance.
The EU Agricultural Council, the group that ultimately approves such rules, is expected to approve the new regulations.