Roundtable of Indiana Ag Leaders Discusses NAFTA Concerns

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The pro-NAFTA group Americans for Farmers & Families organized a roundtable discussion this week with several Indiana agriculture leaders. Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch led discussion on the benefits the North American Free Trade Agreement has brought the state’s economy. With ongoing renegotiations, Hoosier leaders are voicing support for modernization of the agreement, but not at the expense of the state’s ag and manufacturing sectors.

“Our ability to modernize NAFTA shouldn’t affect and take away and negate benefit that NAFTA provides for our farmers and our manufacturers and our businesses,” the Lt. Governor said. “We know that Mexico and Canada are two of our largest export partners and our ability to move goods and services very quickly and easily without fighting over burdensome regulations is extremely important to us.”

Frankfort farmer Mike Beard with the Indiana Corn Growers Association says withdrawal from NAFTA is a threat to corn growers’ markets and therefore their bottom line.

“Damage to this market is manifest in lower corn prices,” he said. “Lower corn prices mean lower gross incomes, and no matter how we cut our costs or tighten our belts the end result is a significantly lowered farm and family income.”

That would not be good for rural Indiana. Beard agrees there could be benefits in modernization, but as Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Bruce Kettler told HAT, the state is working with the congressional delegation and others involved in NAFTA to have a voice in what that modernization looks like.

“We’re helping them to realize what a modernized NAFTA would look like and are making sure to make it very clear that there are some things we expect to see out of it, and as soon as we get that and try to help paint a picture of what modernization of the agreement will be and how that will affect our industries.”

Joining the roundtable were Amy Cornell of the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, Angie Steinbarger of the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and Shannon Kiely-Heider from Cummins, Inc. She said “no agreement is more important to Cummins than NAFTA.”

The food and agriculture sector raises a significant source of income for Indiana’s residents. In 2016, $1.4 billion worth of food and agriculture products were exported, with $573 million going to Canada and Mexico. Indiana’s food and agriculture sectors support over 870,000 jobs and $37 billion in wages. Closing access to these foreign markets will reduce a major source of income for the Hoosier state.

Thursday President Trump unveiled his plan to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and ten percent on aluminum. The plan includes provisional exceptions for Canada and Mexico and the plan will go into effect in 15 days.

AFF spokesperson Joshua Baca commented after the announcement.

“During today’s announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs, it’s clear that President Trump recognizes the importance of Mexico and Canada as a market by excluding them in these tariffs as we work to renegotiate a better NAFTA,” Baca said. “Americans for Farmers & Families supports President Trump’s call for a prompt conclusion of NAFTA negotiations. We need to wrap up NAFTA negotiations without jeopardizing our access to export markets or our ability to protect that access. Plainly stated, since its implementation, NAFTA has been a win for rural families. It is critical to the 43 million Americans whose jobs are supported by the U.S. food and agricultural industries. And it has boosted our domestic economy by $127 billion annually with trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada nearly quadrupling. America’s rural voters are watching and listening to President Trump. It is critical that he keeps his promise to protect farmers in a modernized NAFTA.”

Americans for Farmers & Families is a broad-based coalition of over 100 growers, refiners, producers, transporters, retailers and consumers working to ensure President Trump and Congressional leaders understand the importance of preserving and modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement for America’s agricultural and retail economies.