As President of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association (WCGA) and as an active farmer in Jefferson and Walworth Counties, I am writing to alert your readers to our concerns with the current renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Mexico and Canada are major consumers of Wisconsin’s agricultural production and NAFTA has been a major factor in this positive development.
For example, corn is Wisconsin’s number one crop and much of that crop is exported either as corn or corn products. In fact, the export of corn and corn products added over $300 million to Wisconsin’s economy in 2014 and provided about 750 additional jobs in our state.
Of those exports, Mexico’s consumption of U.S. corn has increased 200% in the last 5 years and is now the number one importer of U.S. corn. Canada is the number two importer of ethanol, and ranks in the top ten destinations for other grain products. Mexico recently changed their fuel regulations to allow more U.S. ethanol to enter their market.
Add to corn the exports of dairy products, dairy genetics, processed vegetables, and cranberries, and you can begin to see the enormous positive impact NAFTA has had on Wisconsin’s rural economy.
It is absolutely crucial that these trade gains be protected during NAFTA renegotiations. Our members depend on free trade for their livelihood. If the Mexican market is forced to turn to Brazil and Argentina for their supply, that market may be lost forever.
Like other industries, agriculture needs stability. Even the threat of abandoning NAFTA has affected our market; and this at a time when corn prices are at historic lows.
It is absolutely vital for Wisconsin’s economic health that our community is well represented at the table as NAFTA negotiations proceed. We owe it to Wisconsin’s farmers to do what we can to assure they continue to play a major role in feeding a hungry world.