WASHINGTON — A total of 62 US agriculture stakeholders are urging US leaders to prioritize US agriculture and its market access with a continued membership in the World Trade Organization.

In a letter the groups asked Robert Lighthizer, US Trade representative, the US Senate Finance, House Ways & Means, and Senate and House Agriculture Committees for effective WTO reform to enhance access to foreign markets, maintain transparency and opportunities for future export growth.

“The WTO is fundamental to a rules-based system of international trade,” said John Bode, president and chief executive officer of the Corn Refiners Association. “We signed this letter to make clear to leaders on both sides of the political aisle that while reforms are needed continued US leadership in the WTO is vital to American agriculture. As long as exports are important to US agriculture, WTO membership will be essential. This is critical to the one-fifth of the US economy that is agriculture related.”

The letter describes the need for updated rules and a transition in WTO leadership is an opportunity to implement reform to further progress on international agricultural trade reforms.

“While the WTO has been beneficial for US agriculture, its rules have not kept pace with changes in the global economy and improvement is needed to hold members accountable and improve the organization’s governance,” the organizations said in the letter. “Continued US membership and active participation will help ensure that necessary reforms are undertaken and that the WTO will continue to play an important and effective role in economic development of the United States and its trading partners.”

According to the CRA, overall trade in goods has nearly quadrupled in the first 20 years of the WTO, while WTO members’ import tariffs decreased by an average of 15%.

“Farmers and ranchers across the US depend upon the WTO’s international system of trade rules to facilitate growth in agricultural trade,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “We may not always appreciate WTO delays or decisions, but it is critical for the US to remain engaged with the WTO in a leadership role. Exports are fundamental to the success of US agriculture and the WTO helps to create a level playing field for trade.”

In 2019, US animal feed and pet food manufacturers exported roughly $12.5 billion in products, including $10.8 billion in feed and feed ingredients and $1.7 billion in pet food products, according to the American Feed Industry Association. These exports have supported US agriculture’s $16 billion trade surplus and are vital to the industry’s success, the association said.

“The WTO provides the foundation for rules-based trading and a vehicle to enforce them,” said Constance Cullman, president and CEO of the AFIA. “Without this system, the United States animal food industry will not be able to compete fairly in the global market.”