Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) President, Steve Nelson, urged the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to focus on maintaining the growth in agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico as the Trump administration begins the process of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) later this year. Nebraska Farm Bureau submitted comments asking the Trump administration to remember that commodity by commodity, it’s hard to understate the value of NAFTA to Nebraska and Nebraska farm and ranch families.
“In 2016, Nebraska exported over $2.4 billion worth of products to Canada and Mexico with agricultural products making up $1.5 billion of that total. Mexico alone is Nebraska’s second largest trading partner with Nebraska farmers and ranchers exporting $1.3 billion worth of agricultural products which supports nearly 1,200 jobs,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President, Steve Nelson said June 15.
Nebraska is a very diverse state agriculturally and NEFB members produce an array of agricultural products. From sugar beets and dry edible beans in the Panhandle, cattle in the Sandhills, to corn, soybeans, wheat, hogs, and even fruit and vegetables; all help make Nebraska an important world leader in food, fiber, and fuel production.
“Most of the success that Nebraska farmers and ranchers have experienced trading on the world stage, has largely been due to the free trade agreements the United States has signed with numerous countries around the world. In 2015, exports to countries with free trade agreements (FTA) accounted for 53 percent of Nebraska exports (NAFTA; Korea; Australia; CAFTA; & Israel),” he said. “From 2005-15, exports from Nebraska to free trade agreement markets grew 104 percent, with growth in NAFTA trade far outpacing that with other FTA countries,” Nelson said.
While the agricultural sector has seen substantial benefit from NAFTA, there are some individual American commodities that have faced challenges such as tomatoes, other fruits and vegetables, and sugar with Mexico. There are also challenges for dairy, specialty and row crops, lumber, wine, and other with Canada.
“Despite the clear and numerous benefits, there are reasons to update and reform NAFTA from agriculture’s perspective. Some improvements include reducing redundant regulatory costs, expediting transit across borders, and hastening the resolution of disputes between members that would go a long way toward establishing more efficient trade between NAFTA partners,” Nelson said.
Another good example for a needed update would include the rules related to biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and geographic indicators. These areas are ripe for amendment to reflect the progress that has been made over the decades since NAFTA was first implemented.
“We also believe negotiations should address how U.S. agricultural exports to Canada would grow if tariff barriers to dairy, poultry, and eggs were reduced or eliminated. Many of these issues were addressed in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the language of which could be used as the basis for the changes needed in some of these areas,” Nelson said.
Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16 and the USTR will post a notice requesting public input on content for negotiations.