Editorial: Ag groups send a message to Trump

Source: By Omaha World Herald Editorial Board • Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sixteen national agricultural organizations have written to President-elect Donald Trump and sent an important message.

The producer organizations cautioned the new administration not to jeopardize existing trade relationships as it seeks to expand our export opportunities abroad.

The federal government needs to be careful in particular about imposing tariffs. Such trade barriers, especially if applied broadly to a significant trading partner, can trigger a ripple effect, shifting purchasing decisions in major ways and potentially eroding U.S. export opportunities.

Given that our country exports more than $1 trillion worth of agricultural products each year, the potential disruptions can be considerable.

In their Jan. 6 letter to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the ag associations noted the importance of the markets specifically in China, Canada and Mexico.

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

The groups include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and national producer associations for crops including corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and sorghum.

China has been a particular focus for Nebraska ag promotion. The state’s exports of processed food products to China have increased from $209 million in 2009 to $483 million in 2015. Our sales of agricultural products to the Asian country rose from $140,000 in 2009 to $24 million in 2015.

China’s government last year announced that it was ending a 13-year ban on imports of U.S. beef from animals under 30 months of age. The ban had been imposed over concerns about mad cow disease.

Gov. Pete Ricketts led a trade mission to China last November and signed nine letters of intent to Chinese importers who pledged to buy Nebraska beef.