US farmers have much to lose if NAFTA deal collapses
A collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which US President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap, could create the most profound disruption for US farmers who produce grains, meats and dairy products sold to Canada and Mexico.
Blake Erwin, a third-generation American who raises cattle, corn and soybeans in Dixon, Nebraska, said this week that he is not closely monitoring the negotiations, but that he hopes the outcome will support US farmers who are struggling to make a living due to low commodities prices, rising healthcare costs and high property taxes.
“A trade agreement has to be fair for the US, but we also want to keep those exports going for the farmer,” said Erwin, 34. “We don’t want to mess up any good things we got going.”
Erwin spoke to Reuters over the weekend as US, Canadian and Mexican negotiators met in Montreal for the sixth of seven planned rounds of talks to revamp the 1994 pact.
US farmers and exporters are fighting to preserve their exports at a time when Canada is finding customers in new markets. They also face strained relations between the United States and Mexico, a major buyer of US corn, wheat, beef, pork and dairy products.
“The US is behaving so badly it’s going to create opportunities for Canadian agriculture,” Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes said last week during a visit to Winnipeg.
Trade flows have already begun to shift.
The US remains the dominant grain supplier to Mexico. Yet Mexico imported 583,000 metric tonnes of corn from Brazil in 2017, a 980pc jump from the previous year, according to Mexican government trade data.