WORTHINGTON — In the month since rural Worthington farmer Bill Gordon took the helm as president of the American Soybean Association, several significant pieces of legislation have been approved.
They include a five-year extension of the Biodiesel Tax Credit, a trade agreement with Japan and, as of last Wednesday, a phase one trade deal with China. In addition, President Trump’s signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement is anticipated this week.
None of those agreements would have happened had it not been for agriculture advocacy groups and grassroots organizations speaking out and working together, said Gordon.
“It’s a lot of hard work," he said, "It really goes down to just a great team of farmers and a great team of staff. I hope we can continue to have these successes.
“I’m happy to lead during these times. We have a lot of big things coming up yet and a lot of work to do.”
Gordon was among more than 200 individuals to witness signage of the first phase of the Chinese trade agreement during a Jan. 15 ceremony at the White House. Joining Trump was China’s Vice Premier, Liu He, as well as a 20-person Chinese delegation, numerous senators and governors, cabinet members and advisers to the president, farmers and chief executives from major companies.
“It’s definitely a positive step in the right direction,” Gordon said of the trade deal.
China, which had been purchasing about $8 billion in U.S. soybeans — and $24 billion in U.S. ag products — prior to the imposition of tariffs, intends to increase its ag commodity purchases from the U.S. another $12 billion this year, with a $19 billion increase planned in 2021.
“We don’t know how much they’re going to buy in soybeans,” Gordon said, adding that getting back to the 2017 level of soybean sales to China — before the tariffs were imposed — would be “phenomenal.”
Equally as important, he said, is long-term systematic change, starting with China’s biotechnology review process. Primary herbicides used in the U.S. for weed control were previously not accepted in China, which meant soybeans treated with Dicamba or Xtend-style herbicides were not allowed in the country. That will now change.
To be in the room when the deal was inked between the U.S. and China was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Gordon said.
“It was fun to be there,” he shared. “They were excited to have us — especially the farmers — in the room.”
Gordon was in Washington for little more than a day, but he made the most of his time on behalf of the nation’s soybean growers. Tuesday included meetings with U.S. senators still undecided about their vote on the USMCA, as well as visits with House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Hours after Gordon returned home to Worthington, the Senate passed the USMCA in an 89-10 vote.
With a planned trip to the nation’s capital again this week, Gordon said perhaps he’ll be on hand for signage of that agreement as well.
“Both (the USMCA and China deals) took about 18 months of hard work from soybean farmers, other ag commodity groups and staff,” Gordon said. “It’s been a long battle, and the president and administration has really come through here for us.”
Like the China deal, the USMCA includes language about biotechnology — something that didn’t exist in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) written in the 1990s, Gordon said.
“It’s going to be all the same rules and everybody knows how to play,” he added. “That’s going to be absolutely huge for U.S. soybean farmers.”