A lot of Texans will be paying close attention Monday to the words and tone of President Donald Trump as he addresses farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville. At a time when Texas is growing in population,  becoming less rural and more urban than it was 10 years ago, advocates say rural issues are no less important than they once were. And that’s the message Trump aims to send during his Farm Bureau speech. But what do Texans want to hear, especially on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA?

Luis Ribera, director of the Center for North American Studies at the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension says Texas growers and livestock producers rely heavily on trade. He says about one-third of Texas farm income is derived from exports. NAFTA countries account for six or seven percent of the total.

“Our markets overseas are very important,” he says “especially now when we have low commodity prices.”

Ribera says that despite the importance of trade to Texas farmers, NAFTA negotiations are currently not focusing on agricultural issues. He says that other overseas markets, including China and other parts of Asia, are important and lucrative destinations for Texas crops.

“There are a lot of people [in Asia], but they didn’t have money to buy agricultural products,” Ribera says. “Now that they have grown and they have more money available to purchase not only grain-based products, but also more protein…that’s a big positive impact.”

Ribera says Brazil is also an interesting market, that Texas has not yet penetrated.

As to how the Trump administration’s trade policy could impact Texas agriculture, Ribera says the approach is certainly different than that of his predecessors.

“They’re moving away from multilateral trade negotiations, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Ribera says. “They want to do more bilateral [trade deals.]”

 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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