Walking away from the significant gains the North American Free Trade Agreement has provided for farmers and ranchers throughout United States would have been a severe blow to the agricultural sector, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a letter to President Donald Trump thanking the administration for its decision to pursue renegotiation over withdrawal from NAFTA.
Under 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. Still, there is work to be done, Duvall noted.
"There are compelling reasons to update and reform NAFTA from agriculture’s perspective, including improvements on biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and geographic indicators," Duvall said.
The NAFTA modernization effort should recognize and build upon the strong gains achieved by U.S. agriculture through tariff elimination, harmonization of numerous regulatory issues, and the development of integrated supply chains that have arisen due to the agreement. Duvall strongly urged the administration to avoid any actions that would lead to a re-imposition of tariffs or other trade barriers.
“There are numerous areas in agriculture alone where [NAFTA] 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,” he said.
Duvall also emphasized the overall importance of trade to U.S. farmers and ranchers, especially as farm income continues to fall to its lowest level since 2009.
“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,” Duvall noted.
Along with expanding access to international markets for U.S. crop and livestock producers, Duvall asked for the administration’s engagement on behalf of agriculture to protect current access to foreign markets, which amounts to $134 billion annually.