Agricultural Interests Come Out Swinging, Asking Trump To Save NAFTA

In a strongly-worded letter, dozens of farm groups stress that changes to the trade agreement should “do no harm” to agriculture.

By Jill AmentNovember 10, 2017 11:07 am,

President Donald Trump’s insistence that the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is a bad deal sparked talks aimed at renegotiation among the U.S., Mexico and Canada. And until now, groups representing farmers and ranchers in Trump-supporting states have been willing to wait and see where those negotiations go. But Politico reports the agriculture lobby is now going on offense, sending a sharply-worded message that the trade pact must be saved.

Agriculture groups stress the principle of “do no harm” in their letter, saying that leaving NAFTA would be a cataclysmic event for the U.S. economy. The letter also attempts to refute Trump administration statements about the benefits of leaving the trade deal.

The Texas Grain and Feed Association is among the dozens of signatories to the letter. Tara Artho, president of the group, says agricultural interests have been lobbying to keep NAFTA intact since June, making the point that farmers already face falling commodity prices, which she says would likely go lower without NAFTA.

“With falling commodity prices, farm income in the past five years is down by half. That’s concerning,” she says. “Being that we have more competitive markets and increased regulation, being a farmer on a day-to-day basis is hard enough.”

Artho says she is hopeful that Trump’s business background will make him sympathetic to farm groups’ point of view. She says the NAFTA letter lays out the case in economic terms.

If the U.S. does leave NAFTA, Artho hopes the country has a fallback plan; something akin to Mexico’s reported “Plan B.”

“If Mexico has a Plan B, I’m sure the U.S. has a Plan B as well,” Artho says. “What that Plan B is at this point, I can’t speculate on, but I would hope that the folks that are sitting around that table have a plan of action, should that happen.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.