The American Soybean Association (ASA) is formally joining the Shrimp Task Force, an alliance of industries opposed to placing higher duties on imported shrimp. Approximately 90 percent of total U.S. shrimp consumption today must be served by imports. The majority of shrimp producing countries purchase large quantities of U.S. soybeans and soybean meal to feed to their farm-raised shrimp.
"ASA is primarily concerned about the potential of retaliatory trade restrictions being placed on U.S. soybean and soybean meal exports," said ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, Iowa. "About half of all our U.S. soy exports are purchased by shrimp producing countries."
A $2.4 billion dumping petition was filed on December 31, 2003, by a small group of domestic shrimpers against imports from Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, Ecuador, and Brazil, which account for about 75 percent of shrimp imports in the U.S. market. China, Thailand, India, Ecuador and Vietnam purchase more than $3.3 billion worth of U.S. soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil annually.
"Because of this threat to U.S. soybean exports, ASA is joining together with concerned grocers, restaurants, processors, distributors, business councils and other consuming groups to make sure that the U.S. government considers all the facts in this case fairly and objectively, with a full understanding of the potentially negative consequences for U.S. consumers, farmers, and food industry workers," Heck said.
The Shrimp Task Force believes that this case is nothing more than an attempt by a small group of domestic processors and shrimpers to convince the U.S. government to place a food tax on consumers. In return, the petitioners reap a hefty financial windfall because of the Byrd Amendment, a controversial law directing revenues from dumping duties to the petitioners and others who support the case. If dumping duties were set at 15 percent and shrimp imports cut in half (conservative estimates), this select group of shrimpers and processors would receive an estimated total $180 million, or $829,493 per company, every year in payouts of antidumping special interest taxes on food imports. See http://www.citac.info/shrimp/ for more information.
The ASA is a staunch advocate for expanded trade. With 95 percent of the world's population living outside the U.S., trade is essential to the future prosperity of the U.S. soybean industry and thousands of grocers and restaurants that depend on imported shrimp to meet consumer demand. This trade case threatens to deny American consumers the benefits of reasonably priced, widely available shrimp.
Imports have made shrimp widely available to American consumers because other countries have adopted modern technology that has increased supply at lower prices. U.S. shrimpers simply cannot catch more shrimp than currently supplied to the market because they catch shrimp on open waters using boats and nets.
Open water shrimping is less efficient, less predictable, and far more expensive than aquaculture, which is the predominant method used by countries that export shrimp. Aquaculture is also more environmentally friendly than open water shrimping because fish-farming does not pressure the ocean's resources of shrimp.
"The American Soybean Association is a world leader in the development of soy-based aquaculture feeds," Heck said. "During the last decade, ASA has successfully leveraged producer checkoff dollars and cooperator funding from the Foreign Agriculture Service to develop aquaculture programs and feeding trials to build demand for U.S. soybean exports."
For every one job in the U.S. shrimp-producing industry, there are 20 other U.S. shrimp-consuming jobs involved in processing or distribution. Higher prices for shrimp will cause some of these jobs to disappear, and the take-home pay of others to suffer.
"This case will do nothing to save American jobs, but it could cause tremendous economic damage and adversely impact thousands of Americans employed in the farm sector who depend heavily on agricultural commodity exports to shrimp producing countries," Heck said.