USDA’s McKinney speaks at NEC

By Matt Thompson | February 12, 2020

Ted McKinney, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, addressed the 2020 National Ethanol Conference Wednesday, offering kudos to the U.S. ethanol industry. He praised, "What you all have done to lift up farmers incomes, clean the air and do all the things that ethanol does for humanity,” McKinney said.

He also took time to speak to recent trade wins for U.S. agriculture and ethanol. He reminded his audience that a trade agreement with Japan went into effect January 1 of this year. “That helps so, so many aspects of agriculture. That is so significant for your customers.”

He also discussed the Phase One China Trade Agreement. He said that while there is still work do with China, he “remains optimistic because it was a very public stage when China signed that agreement.” He added, “I sense from all my discussions that China is recognizing the quality, the safety and in many cases, the volumes of U.S. products.”

The coronavirus may have implications for the trade deal, but McKinney said it’s too early to determine how trade will be impacted. “The honest answer is, we don’t know,” McKinney said, but it will be partially determined by how long the outbreak lasts.

McKinney also spoke about Mexico and efforts to allow ethanol in the country’s three largest cities. “We’re working hard on that. I had a call as recently as Monday with the government and we’re going to keep it up and we will be relentless.”

Brazil is also an area of focus for USDA, McKinney said, specifically removing the tariff rate quota placed on U.S. ethanol imports. He said the countries are working together, and the Brazilian government knows how the U.S. feels about the TRQ. “It’s good that our countries are coming together. I believe we will find success even in getting rid of the doggone tariff they put on us,” McKinney said.

India, Indonesia, Columbia, among others, are also potential markets for U.S. ethanol and farm products for USDA, McKinney said.

And focusing on markets like India and Indonesia is important for McKinney. “We can collectively go out and do all kinds of promotions in the countries where we have done a lot of work and they know us well,” McKinney said. “That’s what I hope my legacy will be. That we didn’t just rely on the big countries, but to open up countless other countries.”

The quality of U.S. ethanol is a big selling point for international markets, McKinney said. “The rest of the world loves—and I mean loves—the quality and the safety, and in some cases, the volumes of your product,” McKinney said.