Wisconsin relied on NAFTA for 2016 exports

Wisconsin State Farmer

MADISON (AP) - Nearly half of Wisconsin's dairy, fruit and vegetable exports went to Canada and Mexico last year, raising concerns amid the uncertain future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

National flags representing the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze in New Orleans where leaders of the North American Free Trade Agreement met in April 2008.

The American Farm Bureau also found that almost 90 percent of live animal exports last year when to NAFTA partners, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The numbers indicate how crucial trade is to the agriculture industry, said Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. It's not an option for farmers to pull out of the world market, he said.

"If we were to have to change our production levels down to what only could be consumed in this country, it'd be quite the disaster for prices," Holte said.

But President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if Canada and Mexico don't agree to terms that are more favorable for the U.S.

Brian Gould, an associate professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he's unsure what will happen if the U.S. were to pull out of NAFTA immediately. The U.S. or its partners may impose new tariffs on products if NAFTA is discarded, Gould said.

"Mexico has been actively exploring trading relationships with some of our competing countries for their dairy imports and there's a potential that we could lose those markets," Gould said. "Even if we don't lose NAFTA, we may lose those markets anyway."

Wisconsin producers could be devastated if they lose export sales to Canada and Mexico, Gould said.