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Farmers and Ranchers Implore Governors to Help Save American Agriculture from NAFTA Withdrawal

WASHINGTON -- A coalition of American agriculture and food producers implored America's governors to stand up for trade amid fears that U.S. withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement may be on the horizon.

"The adverse effects of issuance of a notice of NAFTA withdrawal would be abrupt and particularly severe for America’s farmers, food manufacturers, and agribusinesses," wrote the 168 signatories who included the American Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. "For instance, the world grain market currently is experiencing the greatest oversupply of production since the 1980s – with the U.S. facing increasing competition from foreign competitors – and net U.S. farm income has declined to half what it was just five years ago. 2018 would be an especially damaging time to lose America’s two largest food and agriculture product markets."

The fifth round of NAFTA talks resumed today, with the Trump administration indicating that their patience is wearing thin over Canadian and Mexican demands.

“I would certainly prefer them to come to their senses and make a sensible deal,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a Wall Street Journal CEO forum Tuesday. “In any negotiation if you have one party that is not in fact prepared to walk away over whatever are the threshold issues, that party is going to lose."

Ross said "some sort of a draft" would ultimately be sent to President Trump for consideration.

The ag industry reps said in the letter to governors that they "encourage NAFTA negotiations to continue without the threat of withdrawal" and "respectfully request that you let President Trump know that you support a modernized NAFTA that maintains and enhances food and agricultural trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and recognition that withdrawal from the accord would have adverse impacts."

"Under NAFTA, American food and agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico grew by 450 percent," they noted. "In 2015, the United States held a 65 percent market share for agriculture products in the NAFTA region, and in 2016, we exported nearly $43 billion worth of food and agricultural goods to Canada and Mexico, making our NAFTA partners the largest export consumers of U.S. agriculture."

Meanwhile, NAFTA gives Americans year-round access to produce that's plentiful south of the border, they added.

"Notice of withdrawal from NAFTA would result in substantial harm to the U.S. economy generally, and U.S. food and agriculture producers, in particular. While it has been asserted that negotiations could be completed and a new agreement approved subsequent to issuance of notice of withdrawal; but, prior to actual withdrawal, that observation underestimates the business complexity, integrated supply chains and contracting periods involved," the letter continued.