Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Peter C. Myers on Monday applauded a new Japanese plan to increase its imports of U.S. beef and citrus.
During a press conference, he called the move a major cooperative effort between U.S. and Japanese leaders. The agreement calls for Japan to lift beef quotas in three years and fully open its beef market in six years. Quotas on oranges and orange juice will be eliminated in four years and import duties on grapefruit, lemons, pecans, pet foods and other products will be reduced.Myers, who was appointed deputy agriculture secretary June 3, said most of America's farming heartland is suffering from a lack of rain and crops are stunted or dying.
"The central states' drought is approaching a critical point and while there are great reserves of wheat and grain in the U.S., there may be some increase in grain prices eventually, but not immediately, and a corresponding increase in the price of red meat if the drought continues," said Myers, who was in Utah Monday to attend an international water quality symposium.
"There is no reason to panic, however, and the price of food should not go up immediately because of the drought. If wholesalers and retailers do increase the price of food, it will not be justifiable.
"Unless there are unforeseen circumstances in the near future, U.S. consumers should continue to have inexpensive food for decades to come.
"Right now, Americans spend only about 14 percent of their income for food - much less than people in most other countries do - and I believe that trend will continue. America is a tremendous food producing machine with great diversity."
Myers said the drought only signals the need for new sources of water in the Midwest and elsewhere in the country.
Despite improved relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, brought about in large part by recent arms negotiations, Myers predicted there will be no large increase in U.S. grain sales to Russia. "It is a matter of price and the price of U.S. grain has gone up lately."
Myers, who spoke to about 150 scientists from 15 countries at noon Monday during a five-day International Symposium on Water Quality Modeling of Agricultural Non-Point Sources, which opened Sunday at Utah State University, said models are a valuable tool to help farmers select the most appropriate management techniques.
"Models also help us get the most out of experimental research and help us minimize the adverse ef-fects of droughts, heavy rains, insect plagues and other extreme events on water quality."
He said America has taken great strides in cleaning up its streams, rivers and lakes during the past two decades and has set up tough laws and restrictions that are persuading factories and cities not to dump sewage and chemical pollutants in rivers and lakes.
"I see no increase in the number or extent of our country's tariff or trade restrictions in the near future. We want other countries to lower their restrictions, so we have to be consistent and not increase ours.
"American farmers are dealing with world markets now, not just U.S. markets, and should work under international price structures.
"The best thing that could happen," he said, "is for our government to get out of agriculture."