KANSAS CITY — Trade and the potential issues it brings was the theme of the annual 2020 Ag Outlook Forum that was hosted by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City and Washington-based Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

The event hosted in-person and virtual attendees, which totaled almost 300 agricultural leaders from the region.

Some of the presenters included Esther George, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Tom Vilsack, former US secretary of the US Department of Agriculture and president and CEO of the US Dairy Export Council; and Rob Johansson, chief economist for the USDA. 

With the possibility of trade deals falling short, Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, spoke about probability of China meeting its phase one trade commitment with the United States and implementation challenges that USMCA is facing.

Mr. Doud said he is watching the implementation of USMCA, particularly the situation with dairy in Canada. Another important focus will be the biotechnology situation with Mexico. Two key issues included in the USMCA deal are the biotechnology component and the enforcement mechanism.

He emphasized the new enforcement mechanism is something he believes the United States will really be able to “utilize in a fashion much more quickly than we had previously been able to use.”

“We will not hesitate to use enforcement tools we have in USMCA, if necessary,” Mr. Doud said.

Another panel highlighted trade issues and how Americans are drawing a less of a parallel between trade and a successful US economy.

“With trade we always have issues,” Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said during the panel. He sees a change in Americans’ attitude toward trade and thinks many may consider it not that important to the overall economy.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also was discussed, where USDA leaders believe relief payments will be made and will be enough to support the loss US farmers endured in 2020.

Steve Censky, deputy secretary of the USDA, told the Ag Outlook Forum audience that support for farmers is strong at high levels of all government agencies and departments. But he mentioned the USDA considers another round of Market Facilitation Program payments unnecessary since additional COVID-19 relief is coming for producers in the next month or two.

Mr. Johansson, chief economist for the USDA, said the new round of coronavirus relief payments will help shore up farm income heading into 2021. He expects about $6 billion in payments from the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to reach farmers in the first part of 2021. Mr. Johansson forecasts higher revenue next year for livestock producers, but net farm income is expected to be down because of an overall decline in government payments.