Fifteen national agriculture organizations called upon their members last week to personally reach out to the White House to encourage President Donald Trump to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement and not to withdraw from the trade agreement.
Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president, says the Farm Bureau joined agricultural groups representing soybean, wheat, corn, cotton, pork, the seed association and others to connect with the White House. Through its network, MFBF sent emails to its members to ask them to tell their stories about how NAFTA impacts their farms and industry.
“We need to improve and modernize NAFTA,” Paap says. When he discusses the trade agreement and Minnesota, he keeps his message simple and to the point, referring to “24-24-24.”
“NAFTA has been around 24 years,” he says. “Twenty-four percent of Minnesota’s ag exports go to Canada, and 24% go to Mexico. So having half of Minnesota’s ag exports going to NAFTA and with low prices now, what would happen if we lose half of our market share?”
On average, 30% of U.S. agricultural exports are delivered to these NAFTA partners.
“We need to get our message out [about NAFTA’s importance],” Paap says. “A withdrawal [from the trade agreement] could send agriculture into a financial downturn.”
Paap notes that lower-level NAFTA trade representatives would be meeting this week. He was optimistic that they would be able to move ahead on smaller issues.
“It’s important that we recognize that we’ve become a part of the North American supply chain,” he says. “And being a border state, we’ve got a lot of goods moving. I hope we can work together for everyone’s benefit.”
Since NAFTA was enacted in 1994, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says U.S. ag exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled, from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016. Overall, about 8 % of the U.S. labor force — 13 million jobs — depend on NAFTA.
The estimated NAFTA-Minnesota ag trade economic impact last year equated to $4.7 billion in output, affecting 12,900 jobs.