WASHINGTON DC - The American Farm Bureau Federation thanked the Trump administration for its decision to pursue renegotiation over withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Thank you for your recent decision to choose the path of renegotiation for the North American Free Trade Agreement, rather than withdrawal. Your leadership in reaching out to President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada began an important step to finding a path forward for updating this important agreement.
There are compelling reasons to update and reform NAFTA from agriculture’s perspective, including improvements on biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and geographic indicators. As you know, overall, NAFTA has been overwhelmingly beneficial for farmers, ranchers and associated businesses all across the United States, Canada and Mexico for decades. Walking away from those gains would have been a severe blow to the agricultural sector and we appreciate the path that will allow for reform and enhancement, rather than abandonment of past achievements.
The NAFTA modernization effort should recognize and build upon the strong gains achieved by U.S. agriculture through tariff elimination, harmonization—or recognition of equivalency—of numerous regulatory issues, and development of integrated supply chains that have arisen due to the agreement.
With NAFTA, U.S. farmers and ranchers across the nation have benefited from an increase in annual exports to Mexico and Canada, which have gone from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016. We strongly caution against any actions that would lead to a re-imposition of tariffs or other barriers to agricultural trade with our NAFTA partners.
Trade is critical to the livelihood of the U.S. agricultural sector because it spurs economic growth for our farmers, ranchers and their rural communities. Agriculture supports jobs in the food and agricultural industries and beyond. The fact is, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States and over 20 percent of U.S. farm income is based on exports.
Expanding opportunities for U.S. crop and livestock producers to access international markets will boost farm income in the United States. Just as important as expansion, we need your engagement on behalf of agriculture to protect our current access to foreign markets, which amounts to $134 billion annually.
Existing trade agreements have proved successful in tearing down tariff and non-tariff trade barriers that hinder U.S. farmers’ and ranchers’ competitiveness and prevent us from taking advantage of consumer demand for high-quality U.S. food and agricultural products throughout the world.
Trade agreements also provide the highest standard of trade rules, allowing the United States to lead in setting the foundation to establish market-driven and science-based terms of trade and dispute resolution that will directly benefit the U.S. food and agriculture industry. If we surrender the lead, we will fall behind as our competitors aggressively work to establish alternative trade agreements that give their agricultural interests an advantage over our own.
There are numerous areas in agriculture alone where the agreement can be modernized, ranging from the handling of wheat to dairy issues, from animal health certifications to transparency on agricultural biotechnology. We look forward to working with the administration in developing the full list of topics for discussion.
As farm income continues to fall to its lowest level since 2009, we urge your immediate attention both to securing and to maintaining solid and fair trade agreements that bring the benefits of agricultural trade to our struggling farm economy.”
Duvall is the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation