#1 U.S. farm lobby turns up heat on Trump team as NAFTA talks near by algernonpj 16.07.2017 19:59


July 14, 2017 / 1:14 AM / 2 days ago
U.S. farm lobby turns up heat on Trump team as NAFTA talks near
Richard Cowan

ASHINGTON (Reuters) - With talks to renegotiate the NAFTA trade pact just weeks away, U.S. farm groups and lawmakers from rural states are intensifying lobbying of President Donald Trump's administration with one central message: leave farming out of it.

Trump blames the North American Free Trade Agreement - the "worst trade deal ever" in his words - for millions of lost manufacturing jobs and promises to tilt it in America's favor.

But for U.S. farmers the 23-year old pact secures access to stable, lucrative markets in Mexico and Canada that now account for over a quarter of U.S. farm exports.

Now they fear this access could become a bargaining chip in efforts to get a better deal for U.S. manufacturers.

"Perhaps some other sectors of our economy are given better terms and in exchange for that agriculture tariffs would be reintroduced," said Joe Schuele, a spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, Colorado.

Another concern is that the mere uncertainty of open-ended trade talks could drive Mexico to alternative suppliers of grains, dairy products, beef and pork.

Mexico became even more crucial after Trump's pullout from a vast Pacific Rim trade pact negotiated under Barack Obama dashed farmers' hopes of free access to more markets.

Next week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is due to outline the administration's goals for the NAFTA talks to Congress and the farm lobby has turned up the heat in the past weeks to ensure that its interests will make Lighthizer's list.

Operating under the umbrella of the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, more than 130 commodity groups and agribusiness giants since Trump's inauguration have been bombarding the new administration with phone calls and letters, public comments to USTR and face-to-face meetings with top officials who have Trump's ear.

"Our first ask is to do no harm," said Cassandra Kuball, the head of the umbrella group.

Lobbyists said that Lighthizer, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have been receptive, but the wild card is how Trump ultimately will come down on the talks. They also wonder what concessions Mexico will seek from Washington in the talks due to start in mid-August.

Among the groups involved are the American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association and National Grain and Feed Association and firms such as Land O'Lakes, Inc., Tyson Foods(TSN.N), Inc., Louis Dreyfus Company North America, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and others.

For example, U.S. cotton producers, marketers and shippers in mid-June warned the Trump administration that any weakening of NAFTA "would threaten the health of the U.S. industry and the jobs of the 125,000 Americans employed by it."

While lobbying in Washington, some Republican lawmakers have also met with Mexico's ambassador and U.S. farming representatives traveled south to assure their partners unsettled by Trump's "America First" mantra.

"The common comment is: 'why are you here? The problem is not with us. The problem is in Washington. Why are you talking to us?'" said Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. "The new normal is that feed buyers, millers, grain buyers are actively looking at alternative sources," he said.

It will take months to find out how effective the lobbying was. Meantime, some are willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Daryl Haack, a corn and soybean farmer from Primghar in northwest Iowa, like others fears retaliation from either Canada or Mexico, but is optimistic it will not come to that.

"I think President Trump is a negotiator," he said. "I think he runs bluffs. A lot of negotiators will do that."

Reporting By Richard Cowan, Additional reporting by Mark Weinraub, Karl Plume and Theopolis Waters in Chicago; Editing by Caren Bohan and Tomasz Janowski




Here's my take:
Under NAFTA US agriculture giants and associated corporate ship produce to Mexico at very low prices and drive small family farmers out of business. (They same thing is done to American family run farms) This in turn puts pressure on our wide open border and illegals pour in providing cheap labor for agriculture giants. (Why bother with H-2 visas which mandate minimal worker safety conditions)

Workers on both sides of the border loose and agriculture giants are the beneficiaries of lots and lots of welfare.

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