Since United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s announcement Thursday that President Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), several key members in the ag industry have voiced their concerns. Here’s what some had to say:
National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock urged Lighthizer to remember the interests of U.S. agriculture as they begin modernizing the agreement.
“The Trump Administration understands that NAFTA has been an unequivocal success story for American agriculture,” said Spurlock. “Exports are one pillar of a strong farm economy, accounting for 31 percent of farmer income. Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America. Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively. We export billions of dollars of corn and corn products to these countries each year.”
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) welcomes the opportunity for improving the framework for cross border wheat trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but would strongly oppose changes that might limit the current NAFTA’s benefits for wheat farmers and their customers, particularly in the Mexican food processing industries.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important our Mexican customers are to U.S. wheat farmers,” said Jason Scott, a wheat farmer from Easton, Maryland, and USW Chairman. “There is nothing wrong with modernizing a 23-year-old agreement, but that must be done in a way that benefits the food and agriculture sectors in both countries.”
The National Pork Producers Council is committed to work with the administration to preserve tariff-free market access for U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico, which last year were almost $799 million and nearly $1.4 billion, respectively.
“Canada and Mexico are top pork export markets. We absolutely must not have any disruptions in exports to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Illinois.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association joined its cattle-industry partners in Canada and Mexico in sending a joint letter to the leaders of those two nations and to President Trump, urging the three leaders to not “jeopardize the success we have all enjoyed as partners of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
“Recent statements about the possible dissolution of NAFTA or potential renegotiation of NAFTA are deeply concerning to us because of the unnecessary risk it places on our producers,” the letter states. “While there may be general agreement among the countries to improve some parts of the NAFTA trade framework, we urge you to recognize that the terms of the agreement affecting cattle producers are strongly supported as they currently exist and should not be altered.”
The groups also urged Presidents Trump and Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau to “reject efforts to use NAFTA as a platform to resurrect failed policies, especially the misguided mandatory country-of-origin labeling policy that was the law of the United States for over seven years.”
“MCOOL failed to deliver its proponents’ promise to increase consumer demand or consumer confidence,” the groups said. “Instead, it created massive disruptions in live cattle trade that hurt beef producers across North America and jeopardized the jobs of American workers that depend on processing those cattle.”
The US dairy industry commended Lighthizer for taking swift action.
“With this first step, I now encourage the administration to swiftly commence modernization negotiations with our NAFTA partners and prioritize their quick conclusion,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council. “Mexico is our only $1 billion dairy market; finding a replacement for sales that are so critical to supporting tens of thousands of jobs across this country is no small task, so preserving it is essential. At the same time, numerous opportunities exist to shore up open trade and further deepen it with our NAFTA partners, such as addressing Canada’s tariff and nontariff constraints on dairy trade, instituting stronger SPS commitments and ensuring that geographical indications are not used to restrict the use of common names.”
Zippy Duvall, President of American Farm Bureau Federation gave this statement:
“With the delivery of the required formal notice to Congress, the Trump administration has officially taken the first step toward renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. The American Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the administration, Congress, other agricultural groups, and officials in Canada and Mexico to protect these important markets while also addressing issues that have limited the trade potential of U.S. farmers and ranchers. We remain committed to the goal of a positive, market-expanding and modernized NAFTA. Achieving this objective starts with ensuring the negotiations protect U.S. agriculture’s benefits under the current trade agreement.
“The 2015 Trade Priorities and Accountability Act gives farmers, ranchers, the agriculture community and other stakeholders the opportunity to provide input and share our significant expertise with U.S. negotiators. Our ability to be part of these negotiations is important to our members and will help ensure the outcome improves trade relationships with our neighboring countries. Mexico and Canada are two of our largest export markets for the commodities and products raised on U.S. farms and ranches. America’s farmers and ranchers value them as customers and trade partners. We will work to ensure the renegotiation strengthens that critical relationship.”
And from our Secretary of Agriculture:
“While NAFTA has been an overall positive for American agriculture, any trade deal can always be improved. As President Trump moves forward with renegotiating with Canada and Mexico, I am confident this will result in a better deal for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. When the rules are fair and the playing field is level, U.S. agriculture will succeed and lead the world. It’s why we recently announced the creation of an undersecretary for trade at USDA, because as world markets expand, we will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture. As I have often said, if our people continue to grow it, USDA will be there to sell it,” said Secretary Sonny Perdue.