Texas Ranchers Face Blowback From Trump’s Plans For NAFTA

U.S. beef exports to Mexico have skyrocketed since the North American Free Trade Agreement phased out tariffs. Representatives of the cattle industry warn reopening the treaty would put those gains in jeopardy.

By Andrew SchneiderMarch 27, 2017 9:30 am, , ,

From Houston Public Media

President Donald Trump says he’ll pull the United States out of NAFTA, unless Mexico agrees to revise the trade agreement in America’s favor. Mexican officials say their country will retaliate against any new trade restrictions. News 88.7 decided to speak with some people caught in the middle. So we visited the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which just wrapped up.

Coleman Locke of Hungerford, Texas is president of J.D. Hudgins, Inc., a family ranch in business since 1908.

“Our family’s actually been in that location since 1839, which was three years after the Alamo and six years before Texas was a state,” Locke says.

Locke says Mexico has long been one of the most important foreign markets for J.D. Hudgins. The family ranch sells Brahman cattle south. Mexican ranchers breed them with their own stock, then sell the calves back to the U.S.

“Those feeder cattle that came into Texas are by and large owned by Texans or somebody here in the United States. So the profit on those animals will be made in this country,” Locke says. Feeder cattle are cattle raised to be slaughtered for beef. And the largest foreign buyer of Texas beef? Mexico. “Since NAFTA was created, the export for beef to Mexico has grown by 750 percent.”

To get a sense of why, we spoke with another rancher. Kelley Sullivan is co-owner of Santa Rosa Ranch. Sullivan’s family, too, has been in the beef industry for more than a century. Originally from Galveston, they now raise Brangus and UltraBlack cattle at locations in Houston County and Grimes County.

“The export market is very, very important to us, so we keep an eye on it, closely” Sullivan says. “Prior to, for example, NAFTA being passed, there was a 25 percent tariff on our beef.”

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