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Supply of Heart-healthy Foods Threatened by Proposed U.S. Trade Action Reports NAMA in Testimony Before the USTR

September 24, 2004

CONTACT: TerriTodd, Director of Communications
202.484.2200, ext.108
ttodd@namamillers.org

Washington, DC – September 24, 2004 – In testimony before USTR (United States Trade Representative), NAMA (North American Millers’ Association) requested USTR remove oats from a retaliation list. USTR has proposed higher duties on imports of EU (European Union) oats in response to the enlargement of EU and changes in the EU rice import regime.

“Retaliating against the EU by imposing prohibitive duties on oat imports from the EU would be inappropriate, ineffective and would cause disproportionate economic harm to U.S. interests,” stated NAMA member Rick Cole, General Mills, Inc. Cole continued, “It would impact the ability of a small but vital industry to provide American consumers with a basic staple food that is wholesome and affordable, but grown in insufficient quantities here in the United States.”

The proposed duty of 1.66 cents per kilogram is equivalent to $0.24/bushel or 14.6 percent of the value of the oats at current market values. That would have an enormous impact on the oat milling industry, which operates on razor-thin or nonexistent margins.

United States farm programs and other government policies have discouraged oat production for decades. As a result, United States oat crops in recent years have been the smallest since the United States Department of Agriculture began keeping records shortly after President Abraham Lincoln created the agency. “It would be cruel irony for one element of the United States government to directly encourage growers not to produce oats, only to have another element of the same government effectively eliminate an important source of oats to fill that vacuum,” said Cole.

NAMA has 47 member companies operating 170 wheat, corn, oat and rye mills in 38 states and 150 cities. The aggregate production capacity of NAMA’s membership is more than 160 million pounds of product daily, which is about 95% of the total U.S. capacity.

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