Ag Leaders Stress Importance of Trade Agreements Despite Trump's Views

November 11, 2016 12:16 PM

The economy and trade are expected to be a major focus for the President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

On Thursday, leaders in both Canada and Mexico said they would be willing to sit down with Trump to renegotiate and modernize the NAFTA agreement. While rural voters helped Trump claim victory, the agricultural industry hopes he also listens to their concerns on trade.

“Everyone is yearning for changes right now,” said Jim Zaleski, a rural Michigan voter “I’m one of them.”

While some in agriculture say it’s a victory and a chance to make a difference, they also acknowledge a battle, especially on trade policy.

In his first 100 days in office, Trump wants to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), still awaiting approval from Congress. Many agricultural groups support the agreement while Trump opposes it.

“We know NAFTA was good for agriculture," said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We know the TPP is good for agriculture. What good is it going to do him to save jobs and create jobs elsewhere but destroy them in rural America?”

There’s been doubt TPP will get passed in the lame duck session, which starts next week, but farm groups are boosting their efforts to get it passed before a new administration.

“If farmers don’t have some hesitation on President Trump’s trade policy, then they should,” said Patrick Pfingsten, director of agriculture at the Corydon Group. “It will be interesting to see how he moves that message, and how he works with foreign leaders.”

Trump has also been vocal about renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA, another trade deal impacting agriculture.

“Mexico is our number two corn market,” said Jon Doggett, executive vice president of the National Corn Growers Association. “[If we need to renegotiate, it needs to be] with a grain of salt. We have some serious concerns in the corn industry about what’s going to happen to our number two customer.”

“If NAFTA does get torn up and they somehow renegotiate that, it could have dire consequences for U.S. dairy producers,” said Jim Dickrell, editor of Dairy Herd Management.

Despite these differences, rural Americans went to the polls hoping for a victory in the countryside.

“All of America, especially rural America, showed up and made a difference in this election,” said Duvall. “I’m so proud of them for doing that.”

Trump is showing support for other agricultural related policy and issues. He’s vocal about ditching the Waters of the United States rule, potentially putting a farmer as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and he’s been supportive of the RFS. 

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