National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Kevin Skunes had the opportunity Tuesday to tell the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative just how important upcoming NAFTA renegotiations are to the corn industry.
“North America has become the most important export market for the U.S. corn industry,” Skunes testified. “Corn farmers export about 20 percent of our annual corn crop, and exports account for about one-third of our income. Today, the agriculture economy is experiencing its fourth year of a downturn marked by low commodity prices. I cannot stress enough how important export markets are to our ability to stay in business.”
Skunes, a farmer from Arthur, North Dakota, highlighted how NAFTA has positively impacted U.S. agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico since its implementation in 1994.
“Free trade has benefitted American farmers, and NAFTA has been extremely valuable to our industry,” said Skunes. “Twenty-three years of investment has led to a sizeable increase in trade. Since 1994, U.S. corn exports to NAFTA partners have increased more than seven-fold. Today, we export a record volume of more than 14 million metric tons of corn to Mexico and Canada, valued at $2.68 billion. In 2016, corn exports to these two neighbors supported 25,000 jobs, on top of helping support 300,000 U.S. corn farmers.”
Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. corn as well as a significant market for distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Canada is a top-10 export market for corn and DDGS, and the number one export market for U.S. ethanol.
NCGA’s top priority for NAFTA modernization is to preserve duty-free access for corn and corn products, and to expand market access for corn in all forms, including livestock products, DDGS, and ethanol, Skunes told government officials.
“We look forward to working with USTR and the Administration to build on the success corn farmers and the broader agriculture industry have enjoyed under NAFTA.”
The USTR will continue its NAFTA renegotiation public hearings through Thursday. The public hearings follow USTR’s 90-day notification to Congress on May 18 regarding intent to renegotiate NAFTA as well as USTR’s Federal Register notice published May 23 requesting public comment.