The Agriculture Trade Education Council will teach about trade policies and practices
By Diego Flammini
U.S. ag industry leaders have created a new organization designed to educate fellow members of the sector about trade.
The Agriculture Trade Education Council (ATEC) includes representatives from the grain, dairy, produce and meat industries and policymakers.
The non-advocacy organization doesn’t have a particular agenda or tries to make arguments in favor of trade agreements, said Brian Kuehl, ATEC’s executive director.
“We want to empower farmers, leaders and people in the supply chain about how trade works, how trade agreements are negotiated and how trade dispute resolutions work,” he told Farms.com. “That way, people who work in this sector can make better decisions and be more actively engaged in trade.”
Kuehl is also the executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, a group which does advocate for free trade and encourages farmers to support beneficial trade agreements.
One area ATEC will focus its education on is the World Trade Organization.
The WTO facilitates significant portions of trade, Kuehl said.
“One key issue lots of people don’t understand is the role of the World Trade Organization as a rules-based trading system,” he said. “A huge amount of trade happens with WTO requirements without free trade agreements. I think most people don’t understand how resolution works under the WTO and how countries have the right to bring action if they feel like WTO rules are being violated.”
ATEC wants farmers to think about what they do in a different way.
About 20 percent of American farm revenue comes from exports.
But producers don’t think of themselves as exporters because they may not have trade literacy, Kuehl said.
“A farmer sells their grain to an elevator and that’s the last they see of it,” he said. “But the ag and food supply chain is increasingly international with goods going in an out of countries. For that system to work it’s really important ag leadership and everybody in the sector understands how the system works and how it can work in our benefit.”
ATEC is developing a workshop for those interested in trade education.
The workshops, which the organization hopes to begin presenting next month, will begin as in-person sessions.
But the goal is to develop standardized content anyone can access, and anyone can deliver, Kuehl said.
“We want to get beyond trade 101 and get into some of the more technical aspects of trade so people can do a deep dive on these topics.”