VIDEO: U.S. ag secretary defends NAFTA

Sean Pratt is attending the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California. The gathering of U.S. corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers is America’s largest farmer-led convention. Look for stories in upcoming issues of The Western Producer. In the meantime, here is a blog of some of the things he is hearing at the conference.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Trade policy concerns are front and centre at the 2018 Commodity Classic.

U.S. secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue said maintaining trade agreements is one of the priorities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He regularly reminds President Donald Trump how vital the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is to agriculture. And he isn’t the only one in Trump’s circle delivering that message.

“You’ll be amazed and probably surprised, there is a lot of support for NAFTA within the administration,” Perdue told reporters.

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He said Trump is a tough negotiator who feels he can get the best deal by being willing to walk away from a deal.

But many in the administration want him to remain at the negotiating table when it comes to NAFTA.

Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said NAFTA simply has to be protected.

Mexico is the top export market for U.S. corn. The U.S. sold $2.68 billion of corn to Mexico and Canada in 2015-16.

Skunes told reporters that Mexico is already starting to source corn from other countries as frustration builds over NAFTA talks.

He said farm program payments would increase by $1.2 billion per year if NAFTA was trashed.

John Heisdorffer, president of the American Soybean Association, said NAFTA has been beneficial for the soy industry as well.

Soybean sales to Mexico are up fourfold since the inception of NAFTA and Canada has become the number three market for meal and the number 10 market for oil.

Heisdorffer also expressed concern about another looming trade issue. He worries that China will retaliate with soybean duties if Trump follows through on his threat to slap tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.

Ethanol was another hot topic at the Commodity Classic.

Senator Ted Cruz recently led a rally calling for reforms to the U.S. renewable fuels standard (RFS) that corn growers fear will reduce ethanol consumption and drive down already low corn prices.

Some people have criticized Perdue for not being supportive enough of the ethanol industry.

Perdue flatly denied the allegations, saying his support for the RFS is unequivocal.

“I have not and will not support any policies in this country that diminish demand, undermine the RFS and are harmful to our agricultural producers,” he told a room full of farmers attending the conference.


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