Ag Groups to Trump: Don’t Forget About Us on Trade

Source: By Chris Clayton, DTN/Progressive Farmer • Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sixteen major farm groups sent a letter Friday to President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence stressing the importance of agricultural trade to farmers.

The farm groups seemed to be flashing a little light toward agricultural priorities as the president-elect has yet to choose an Agriculture secretary and Trump’s incoming trade team is loaded with people emphasizing trade battles with China.

“We know that securing positive benefits for American farmers, ranchers, and workers in trade will be a priority of your administration,” the ag groups wrote. “This include enforcing existing agreements so that other countries abide by their commitments, as well as expanding market access for U.S. producers through new agreements. The importance of trade to America’s farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated.”

The groups highlighted that 20% of all U.S. agricultural production is exported, but the percentage is much higher for some crops. More than 70% of cotton and tree nuts are exported, as well as more than 60% of soybeans and more than 50% of rice and wheat.

USDA data on exports released Friday showed ag exports for fiscal-year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015-Sept. 30, 2016) accounted for $129.7 billion in exports with imports pegged at $113.1 billion and a positive trade balance of $16.6 billion.

Further, the farm groups pointed out important markets, notably China, Canada and Mexico, as the top countries for U.S. ag exports. China accounted for roughly $27 billion in exports last year while Canada accounted for $24 billion and Mexico $19 billion.

“Disrupting U.S. agricultural exports to these nations would have devastating consequences for our farmers and the many American processing and transportation industries and workers supported by these exports,” the ag groups wrote the incoming president.

Trump has called for import tariffs and poked especially at China and Mexico with statements about trade imbalance. Trump also has said he plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The ag groups added they hope to see expanded access to markets, “particularly in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, beginning with Japan. New fair trade agreements are needed to enable U.S. farmers, ranchers and agricultural exporters to compete — and win — in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.”

Trump has said he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership just as soon as he takes office later this month. Agricultural groups have been some of the strongest proponents of the 12-country deal.

Groups signing the letter included: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Pulse Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, national Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, USA Rice, U.S. Canola Association and the U.S. Dry Bean Council.