Leaders of Farmers for Free Trade (FFT) say they are on a mission to make sure farmers always have a voice at the table during U.S. trade talks. This week, that means heading to Mexico for Round 7 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, which got underway last Sunday.
FFT is gathering farmer signatures on a banner at Commodity Classic that they will carry with them when they fly to Mexico City on Wednesday evening. The signatures represent farmers’ and commodity groups’ support for the 24-year-old trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Brian Kuehl, executive director for the group says he and other members of FFT are cautiously optimistic that the NAFTA agreement will eventually be renewed.
“We would like to see that renewal happen sooner rather than later, because every month that we delay finalizing the agreement is another month that Brazil or Argentina or other countries can sell products into Mexico,” Kuehl says. “We've got a very good posture right now in terms of U.S. agricultural exports, and we'd like to keep that posture.”
FFT is taking several U.S. farmers and ranchers to Mexico this week in a move similar to what the organization did last month for NAFTA talks in Montreal, Canada. Jennifer Spall, FFT director of state and local strategy, says trade negotiators are interested in what grassroots producers have to say. “That's who they want to hear from--from the farmer, not from D.C. lobbyists and not from industry heads,” Spall says. “They want to hear from the Heartland.”
Kuehl encourages farmers to get engaged in the trade talks, even in small ways, so their voices are heard. “We're encouraging farmers to take simple actions--write to their congressmen, put a Farmers for Free Trade bumper sticker on their combine or on their truck. To the extent they use social media to tweet or put messages on Facebook. They can engage in the trade process with grower groups, the corn growers, soybeans, wheat and sorghum growers.
“The ag community supported President Trump pretty strongly in the election, and they expect President Trump to support them,” he adds. “It’s that simple.”
FFT is a bipartisan organization that was started last year and is co-chaired by former Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind. More information on the group and how farmers can get involved is available at www.FarmersForFreeTrade.com.