Wisconsin economy relies on NAFTA
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue talks about the renegotiating of NAFTA, and explains his comments about a possible contingency plan if there was a withdrawal from the agreement. Michael Zamora/The Register
We sometimes say that our food goes straight from farm to fork. And with so many great Wisconsin farmers, it often seems like it does.
However, we don’t always think about how Wisconsin’s food and agricultural community prospers because of trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and how it helps support the farming community and feed families with fresh and affordable products.
NAFTA is vital to Wisconsin’s economy, which is why it is critical for President Donald Trump to work on modernizing the agreement to help strengthen our agriculture industry — not withdraw, which would have immediate damaging effects to our farmers.
Because of NAFTA, Wisconsin exported $2.7 billion in food and agricultural products in 2016. Those products directly and indirectly supported over 1 million Wisconsin jobs that earned workers $48 billion in wages. Of those exports, more than half went to NAFTA partners. Discarding NAFTA instead of expanding upon the gains we have already achieved will hit our rural communities the hardest.
But the effects of NAFTA stretch beyond our state’s border. Since the bipartisan legislation was signed into law in 1994, American farmers have exported more than $43 billion of their products to Mexico and Canada, boosting the U.S. economy by $127 billion.
Across the nation, our food and agricultural communities make up 20 percent — one-fifth — of our economy. Each year, more than $1 billion in U.S. dairy products, many produced in Wisconsin, are exported. Without NAFTA, applied tariffs could reach 60 percent on cheese and 45 percent for skim milk powder, undermining the largest market for U.S. dairy. Furthermore, the timing of this could not be worse as Mexico is currently finalizing negotiations with the European Union — the world’s largest dairy exporter. Consumers will certainly feel the impact of these tariffs if farmers aren’t providing safe and affordable dairy products.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said last year, “I welcome the administration’s effort to improve and update NAFTA for the 21st Century economy. The United States values its strong economic ties with Mexico and Canada, and these negotiations should work to enhance our trilateral trading relationship.”
I support the president and the speaker improving NAFTA for our 21st Century economy. We must continue to encourage President Trump and Speaker Ryan to modernize NAFTA to best benefit Wisconsin exporters and consumers, and continue to grow America’s dairy industry and jobs.
From farm to fork, a modernized NAFTA agreement matters to every Wisconsinite.Fischer is the CEO and founder of the American Dairy Coalition, which is based in Green Bay.