Farm State Senators Wanted Open Markets. They Got Six Under Biden.


Contrary to what many on the Senate Finance Committee believe, American farmers did gain market access in the last three years under Biden. Some countries, like India, opened their doors to numerous products that either faced high entry barriers or were previously closed.

Farm state Senators have spent much of the last three years bemoaning the Biden administration’s stance on trade. To them, the government is AWOL on opening markets for American agriculture in new trade deals.

Earlier this month, Senate Finance Committee members chastised USTR Katherine Tai for her alleged failure to create new markets for American food exports. 

“I can’t see anything that we are doing on market access,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told Tai. “But I see we have the largest ever agricultural trade deficit, forecast to be $30 billion this year. Market access is what our farmers and ranchers are looking for.”

From January 2021, Biden’s first month in office, to April 2024, American farmers did indeed gain access to new markets. Some of these were part of long-standing negotiations and debates between the U.S. and other countries leading to lower tariffs rather than no tariffs at all in most cases. Others were new agreements, opening markets to American food exports for the first time.  

Usually, when the Senators from big agricultural states talk about exports, they are talking about the big commodities like soybeans, corn, and beef.  These are often markets controlled by large multinational corporations like Bunge or JBS. Like other corporations, they are also big importers thanks to price differentials between the world and the U.S. with its overvalued currency – as the New York Times pointed out on April 29.

Free trade deals don’t always lead to market access. They often lead to greater import penetration instead, depending on the product. CPA CEO Michael Stumo says Mexico’s violation of a 2019 agreement on tomato exports threatens local producers. Meanwhile, U.S. GMO corn is still restricted by Mexico. For large commodities like beef, the U.S. is a net importer of beef, unlike Canada which is a net exporter. Canada and Mexico are the top two sources of beef imports in the U.S.

Over the last three years, new markets have opened for new products, allowing farmers a chance to diversify crops or increase existing market share in these countries below.


January 14, 2022: Pork. An age-old trade barrier was removed. Total duty is about 39.65%.  India projects U.S. pork exports expanding between the $750,000-$1 million range this year. India imported over $2.4 million of pork and pork products in 2021, most of it from Belgium and Italy.

February 22, 2023: Pecans.  Import tariffs fell from 100% to 30%; social welfare tax was removed.

India projects U.S. pecan exports potentially expanding to $2-$5 million annually. In 2022, the United States exported around 109 metric tons of pecans to India, valued at around $1.3 million.

September 12, 2023: Almonds, Apples, Walnuts, Chickpeas and Lentils. These items faced retaliatory tariffs by India for the Trump-era Section 232 tariffs on Indian steel. Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, agreed to remove them in June 2023 after a state visit to Washington. Tariffs are still high but are lower than they were before. For example, tariffs on walnuts went from 120% to 100%. These are items India grows itself and even when it removes retaliatory tariffs, tariffs remain high to protect India’s farmers. This is not the kind of free market access the Senate is asking for, but the 20% discount in tariffs lowers a five-year barrier. 

The USDA estimates that U.S. almond exports to India could reach $1 billion next year. U.S. apple exports, which were most affected by the retaliatory tariffs, can climb from $4.8 million in 2022 to $50 million-$80 million in 2024. In 2024, U.S. exports of walnuts may increase to a record $70 million; lentils can double to $15 million; and chickpeas are likely to climb to $5 million.

March 13, 2024: Cotton, Turkey, Blueberries, and Cranberries. Import duties on Turkey went from 30% to 5%, cotton is duty-free, and the two berries also went from 30% to 10%.

India’s imports of cranberries and blueberries are predicted to increase by over 19% this year, reaching roughly 3,640 metric tons. Over the years, imports from Mexico and Canada have decimated U.S. cranberry and blueberry growers. 

Consignments of U.S. cotton (not carded or combed) in 2024 might grow 70%, going from 23,690 metric tons in 2023 to 40,300 metric tons this year, USDA forecast.

March 25, 2024: Duck meat tariffs reduced from 30% to 5%.  With the lowered duty and the amendment in the import policy, India’s imports of U.S.-origin frozen duck meat are estimated to increase by 80% per year (relative to 2021).


April 13, 2023: As part of the fifth year for the U.S. Japan Trade Agreement, which is not a free trade deal, Japan agreed to reduce tariffs on pork meat, potatoes, oranges, fresh cherries, carrot juice, and poultry.


November 21, 2023: Bovine meat/meal primarily for pet food. This marked the first time the U.S. was granted market access for beef protein for animal feed in Latin America.   It is unclear what the tariff is.

March 12, 2024: Poultry: This market had been closed to U.S. poultry meat exporters since August due to bird flu, and reopened this year. Colombia will use phytosanitary measures as a non-tariff barrier to protect local producers whenever it gets the chance.

Before the closure, Colombia was the 10th largest market for U.S. poultry, with exports reaching $105 million in 2022. Colombia became the sixth-largest export market for U.S. agricultural products in 2023.


March 5, 2024:  Wine. U.S. wine gained duty-free access to Thailand and a lowering of excise taxes by 50%.  For grape wine, excise taxes range from 5% to 10% depending on value. The previous tariff was 54%.

In 2023, Thailand imported $132 million worth of wine, of which 8% came from the United States.


January 18, 2023:  Pork: Ghana opened to U.S. pork for the first time. This is a small market worth around $16 million in 2021.


February 27, 2024:  Tariff rate quotas lower, and some items now duty-free.  Despite having a Korea-U.S. Free Trade Deal, the country stands as a testament to how free trade agreements do not guarantee market access.  Korea took this initiative on its own, but it still benefits U.S. farmers and opens existing markets more. To curb food inflation, Korea cut tariffs on things like oranges to 10% year-round from as high as 50% and allowed for duty-free access under a higher quota for big export commodities like poultry and corn.


August 22, 2022:  Processed meats like deli sandwich meats.  The U.S. is now the first and only country that has access to the Israeli deli meats market.  In 2021, Israel’s processed meat market had an estimated value of $450 million, all from local producers.


March 26, 2022:  Eggs. The U.S. was granted full access to Taiwan for eggs and egg products.

In 2018-19, at the start of the “trade war” with China, Beijing put retaliatory tariffs on American soy, a huge cash crop for exporters, and a favorite of the big agriculture trade associations that lobby Congress on trade.  The Trump administration spent billions making these farmers whole.

Two years later, China was back to buying soy and other agricultural commodities, breaking records in 2022.  Washington has proven it can protect farmers from retaliatory tariffs, and that markets ultimately return unless we are to assume demand will evaporate due to geopolitical tension.

Do FTAs Between U.S. Competitor Nations Hurt U.S. Exports?

One of the biggest criticisms by farm state senators and exporters is that if the U.S. is not a party to a free trade agreement (FTA) with a third country, but a competitor nation is, it puts the U.S. at a disadvantage. While this makes sense on the surface, it is not always the case. A lot depends on the product, and even more depends on the dollar.

For example, Australia and New Zealand compete for the Thailand beef market with the United States. U.S. beef is subject to around 50% tariffs currently while the other two countries are not.  If the U.S. had an FTA with Thailand, U.S. beef would still be more expensive than Australian beef because the U.S. dollar is that stronger than the Australian dollar. The U.S. dollar also makes its beef around 60% more expensive than beef priced in the New Zealand dollar.  

If a Thai importer had 10,000 Baht to spend on beef, they could buy $452 worth of beef from New Zealand. Or just $270 worth of beef from the United States.

The reverse is also true, by the way. If a U.S. beef importer had $10,000 to spend on frozen cuts of ribeye steaks, they could get $10,000 worth of it here, or $15,230 worth of Australian ribeye steaks, instead. Undervalued foreign currencies make imports artificially cheap. 

The USDA says that FTAs are not a guarantee of greater market share.

Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, was the 11th largest market for U.S.

agricultural exports in 2021 valued at $24.5 billion. Indonesia is party to 14 FTAs, creating tough competition for U.S. agricultural exports. Indonesia’s major

FTA partners, including Australia and New Zealand, also benefit from proximity. 

However, five U.S. agricultural products that are affected by these FTAs remain competitive despite higher tariffs and declining tariff rate quotas. Indonesia’s No. 1 source of soybeans is the U.S. There are no tariffs on U.S. soybeans.

Tree nuts, processed vegetables, corn, beef, and dairy exports from the U.S. totaled more than $516 million in 2021 and pay as low as 5% tariff rates, anyway.

Worth noting, the U.S. accounted for 9% of Indonesia’s beef imports in 2021, beating New Zealand’s 7% despite their duty free access.

Australia is the biggest source of Indonesian beef, accounting for around 45%. Australia overproduces for world markets; the total opposite of the U.S. beef situation.

Indonesia does not have an FTA with Egypt. Yet, Egyptian oranges account for 26% of Indonesia’s orange imports. The U.S. accounts for 16%, on par with China, which does have an FTA with Indonesia via the ASEAN bloc. It is unclear if oranges are included. 

Brazil does not have an FTA with Indonesia either and is responsible for 31% of Indonesia’s cotton imports in 2021. In second place was Australia with 21%. The U.S. was in third at 20%, nearly indistinguishable from their FTA competitor nation next door to Indonesia.


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