Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers FY 2010

News & Insights
May 24, 2010
In recent testimony before Congress, Lisa Shames, Director, Natural Resources and Environment of the Government Accountability Office observed that 15 percent of the U.S. food supply was composed of food imported from other countries.  While imported food constitutes a small minority of the overall food supply, Ms. Shames further noted that imports comprised 60 percent of the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in the country and 80 percent of seafood.  Thus, at present the majority of seafood, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables consumed in the country come from sources outside of the United States.

These supply patterns raise a number of important issues regarding oversight of the safety of imported food – the subject of Ms. Shames’ testimony – but also underscore the significant competitive impacts of imports on U.S. farmers, aquaculturists, and fishermen.  Some farming and fishing industries have responded to dislocations from increased import trade by bringing actions against the imports themselves under various provisions of federal law that provide for trade remedies.  Such laws are not, however, the only options available to domestic industries adversely impacted by import competition.  The Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, administers the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers program – a program that provides modest benefits for members of trade-affected farming and commercial fishing industries.

Nevertheless, for fiscal year 2010, USDA has reported accepting petitions for only eleven industries, six of which are for seafood products.  It is important to keep in mind that USDA’s acceptance of a petition does not necessarily mean that the industry submitting the petition will be certified for trade adjustment assistance.  USDA acceptance of a petition is the first step toward certification.

The USDA published Federal Register Notices indicating acceptance of Trade Adjustment Assistance petitions from the domestic warmwater shrimp industry (this firm participated in the preparation of that petition), lobster (Homarus americanus) industry, Florida rock “spiny” lobster industry, U.S. farm-raised catfish producers, Louisiana farm-raised crawfish producers, and Georgia blue crab fishermen.  For non-seafood related products, the USDA reported accepting petitions for cut lily producers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia; New Jersey cranberry producers; asparagus producers in Michigan, California, and Washington; Michigan apple producers; and California prune producers.  And that’s it; 11 industries in total.

The usefulness of the trade adjustment assistance for farmers program has been questioned and the benefits are, without question, modest.  Yet, even with these concerns in mind, there can be no doubt that the trade adjustment assistance provides some benefits to industry and the relative dearth of applications is difficult to explain.

The USDA has recently announced that the agency is now accepting trade adjustment assistance petitions for fiscal year 2011, with petitions due no later than July 16, 2010.  A review of petitions submitted for fiscal year 2010 demonstrates a fairly significant range in the amount of information provided to the USDA by industries.  Decisions on whether to certify industries as eligible for trade adjustment assistance benefits for fiscal year 2010 are not due until June 14, 2010, so no accurate assessment can currently be made by private third-parties as to whether any of the information submitted by industries will be deemed sufficient.  Nevertheless, because the petitions submitted for fiscal year 2010 may be of interest to industries considering applying for the program for fiscal year 2011, electronic versions can be reviewed using the links provided below.  In addition, over the next few weeks, this site will be (erratically) updated with brief analysis of discrete trade patterns impacting U.S. farming and fishing industries.


US Lobster

US Catfish Petition

New Jersey Cranberries

Michigan Apples

Louisiana Crawfish

Georgia Fresh Blue Crabs Vickers

GA,NC,SC,VA Cut Lilies (flowers)

Florida Spiny Lobster

California Prunes

CA,MI,WA Asparagus