Lon Hatamiya, Administrator
Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Before the House Committee on Agriculture's
Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities,
Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture
June 3, 1998
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to come before you today to discuss H.R. 3654, "The Selective Agricultural Embargoes Act of 1998."
While we continue to review the specifics of the legislation, the Clinton Administration supports the goals of sanctions reform legislation that encourages sanctions policy-making be conducted in a deliberative manner, taking into account all considerations. In the case of agriculture, there are already existing provisions of law that address embargos affecting agricultural exports.
For example, the 1996 Farm Bill requires the Secretary, in instances where the President or any other member of the executive branch unilaterally suspends exports for national security or foreign policy reasons, to compensate producers of affected agricultural commodities and to promote exports of those products to developing countries. In addition, section 208 of the Agriculture Trade Suspension Adjustment Act of 1980 provides that if an export embargo of an agricultural commodity results in a surplus, the Secretary is authorized to establish a gasohol feedstock reserve or a food security reserve or both.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports the intent of legislation such as H.R. 3654, which recognizes the particular vulnerability of agricultural commodities when sanctions are imposed. We agree with the premise of H.R. 3654 that it would generally be inappropriate for agricultural commodities to be singled out as the subject of an embargo.
Although the Administration is still reviewing the bill, and we will provide the Committee with the Administration's position on the bill as soon as possible, we do have a concern with section 3. This provision would impose an additional fiscal burden on the Department by requiring the collection, assembly, and publication of export sales data on plant nutrient materials on a weekly basis. It is difficult to project the number of staff hours required and the associated costs without a description of what is included in "plant nutrient materials." The costs will depend upon the number of commodities included and the number of active exporters of those products.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions.