U.S farmers still push for freer trade

With the signing of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or NAFTA 2.0, farmer groups opposed to the American administration’s America-first, trade policies are stepping back from their ramparts, but only a little.

Farmers for Free Trade is a bipartisan American producers’ campaign to remove or prevent tariffs and trade barriers and came about as it appeared NAFTA was going to be shoved into the trade trash-bin of history. It was created to amplify the voices of American farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses that support free trade.

For the past year they have been boosting their message, hoping to ensure that their access to the international markets they depend on remains available.

While the signing of the new agreement is an important step for the group, it doesn’t address other American trade, largely the European Union and southeast Asia, where President Donald Trump’s policies are creating serious issues for agriculture.

“USMCA offers exciting opportunities for market access into America’s largest and closest ag export markets, any gains will continue to be offset by the losses farmers are experiencing from retaliatory tariffs as long as they are in place,” said the group’s executive director Brian Kuehl.

U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico were targeted for retaliation over new tariffs on products and services from those countries.

They have faced more than $1.1 billion in new tariffs, which, the group claims, have caused a 21 percent drop in exports for U.S. agriculture.

“We hear from farmers and ranchers from Wisconsin, to Texas, to Washington state that these tariffs are blunting any momentum that USMCA might bring,” he said.

While that group processes the potential of a ceasefire in the trade war with China, it is not entirely optimistic about the overall situation for American trade in agriculture, despite Band-Aid solutions that help to compensate them for their losses, but might not help as corn and soybeans pile up.

“Farmers would like their true international market opportunities to return through open trade with the rest of the world. That is the only sustainable path,” said Kuehl.

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