The next Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiating round takes place in Brussels next week, but even between the rounds there’s a lot of trade-related activity going on. Last month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack came to Brussels to discuss common agricultural issues and concerns with his European counterparts. He launched this historic trip in Luxembourg at a luncheon with the 28 EU Ministers of Agriculture, followed by meetings in Brussels with members of the European Commission and Parliament. On every occasion, he made a strong case for the promotion of agriculture and the unity of U.S. and EU agricultural interests in the face of rapidly shifting economic, environmental, and political conditions.
While helping with this visit, I was surprised by the number of myths about American agriculture that persist among European consumers. During his visit, Secretary Vilsack worked to dispel these misconceptions by setting the record straight on American agriculture. Here’s some of what he said:
Fact #1: Most American farms are family farms
As Secretary Vilsack often noted in his meetings, small family-owned farms are the backbone of the American agricultural sector. Over 50% of American farms generate less than $50,000 in revenue every year. Spread across the United States, small farms reflect the same level of diversity, sense of community, and commitment to sustainable agriculture as their European counterparts.
Fact #2: American agriculture adheres to the highest safety standards
U.S. agriculture produces some of the safest and highest-quality food in the world. According to Secretary Vilsack, the challenge in T-TIP is ensuring that the U.S. and the EU can achieve “equivalent” regulatory regimes that rely on the common language of science to evaluate food safety. Through rigorous scientific evaluation and smart labeling technologies, we can give consumers the choice about which foods they want to purchase.
Fact #3: American agriculture is a pioneer in sustainability
As in Europe, American farmers are stewards of the land. They recognize their responsibility to safeguard our natural resources for future generations by making agriculture as sustainable as possible. Improvements in animal welfare and attention to reducing agriculture’s impact on climate change have resulted in progress towards societal and environmental sustainability goals. The U.S. also promotes economic sustainability by focusing on opportunities for economic growth that don’t deplete our resources. Sharing many of the same challenges and goals, it’s clear that American and European farmers are more alike than different. Secretary Vilsack’s visit is an important reminder that the United States and Europe must work together to achieve our common goal of providing safe, high quality, and affordable food to our citizens and those around the world.
For more information about the U.S. Department of Agriculture, please visit www.usda.gov.
By Stephen Morgan, intern in USEU’s Foreign Agricultural Service