May 26, 2017

Ricketts, Ag Industry Groups Highlight Importance of U.S.-Mexico Trade Relationship

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a boon for America’s farmers and ranchers, and we must maintain a strong partnership between the U.S. and Mexico, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and national and state grain industry leaders told Mexican officials today at a press conference highlighting the importance of Mexico to U.S. agriculture.

“Bilateral trade with Mexico has helped grow agriculture in our state over the years,” said Governor Ricketts. “Mexico is Nebraska’s largest export market for corn, dairy, sugar and sweeteners, and second largest market for soybeans, wheat, sorghum and distillers grains. All of this combined accounts for thousands of Nebraska jobs. I’m encouraged by local and national discussions to expand trade, and am committed to helping grow our trade relationship with Mexico so we can continue to grow Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Corn Board, the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association are hosting a team of Mexican grain and industry officials in Nebraska for a town hall and industry meetings, ahead of the Trump Administration’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA, a 20-year-old trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Later this week, the Mexican delegation will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will join U.S. corn farmers for meetings with Congressional leaders to discuss the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship.

“Nebraska agriculture is at its best when we all work together, which includes our trading partners,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Mexico is currently Nebraska’s largest export market for corn, which provides $287 million in added value to our state’s economy. I’m looking forward to the positive dialogue over these next few days as we look for ways to maintain and even strengthen our relationship with this key partner.”

Approximately 20 percent of U.S. corn and corn co-products are exported. Mexico is the largest market for U.S. corn. In 2016, U.S. corn exports to Mexico totaled 13.3 million metric tons (523.5 million bushels) of corn, valued at $2.5 billion. The U.S. also exported 1.9 million metric tons of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol.

“Today’s farmers rely more on foreign demand for their products. Exports account for 31 percent of farmer income. When commodity prices are low, as they are now, 31 percent is an even bigger deal,” said Jon Doggett, executive vice president and head of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association. “That’s why we need strong trade agreements like NAFTA. NAFTA has been one of the most important catalysts for economic growth in our industry that I have seen.”

As a result of NAFTA, corn is exported to Mexico without tariffs or duties. Under the agreement, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively. One in every 10 acres of American farmland is planted to be exported to Mexico and Canada.

“The National Corn Growers Association is committed to fair and open global trade policies and practices. We will work closely with the Trump Administration and Congress to build on the successful trade relationship we have with our neighbors in Mexico, and make sure a modernized NAFTA is a win-win for both our countries,” said Doggett.

Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, echoed the importance of the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

“The U.S. Grains Council has worked for more than 35 years in Mexico to help local feed and livestock industries expand their production of meat, milk and eggs and to build the relationships that are the foundation for our strong, interdependent trade relationship,” said Sleight. “Having these industry leaders here in the United States this week to share how NAFTA has impacted their companies and their country is invaluable to helping us communicate how important strong trade policy with our nearest neighbors is to the continued success of U.S. grain producers and exporters.”

About U.S. Grains Council
The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, grain sorghum and related products. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability. Detailed information about the Council and its programs is contained on its website www.grains.org.

About Nebraska Corn Board
The Nebraska Corn Board is a state funded agency funded through a ½-cent-per-bushel checkoff on all corn marketed in Nebraska. The mission of the Nebraska Corn Board is to promote the value of corn by creating opportunities. Checkoff funds are invested in programs of market development, research, promotion and education.

About NCGA
Founded in 1957, the National Corn Growers Association represents more than 40,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. NCGA and its 49 affiliated state organizations work together to create and increase opportunities for corn growers. For more information, visit www.ncga.com.


Reshuffle at USDA a Likely Topic During House Ag Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, May 17, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “State of the Rural Economy with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.”

So far since his confirmation, Perdue has been spending a lot of time on the Senate side of things, meeting with farm state lawmakers.

The hearing’s focus will be on rural agriculture, and according to the committee’s hearing notice, and Secretary Perdue will “share his perspective on the economic outlook in rural America along with his vision for USDA and the role it will play in ensuring that our country continues to enjoy the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply in the world.”

Secretary Perdue is expected to share more in-depth details on the USDA’s reorganization plans, which were announced late last week. The agency’s new structure seeks to reorganize departments within USDA to better align program interests. As part of the reorganization, a new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs position was created. The yet-to-be-named undersecretary will be tasked with promoting U.S. products on global markets.

Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation senior vice president for trade access, says his organization is pleased with the establishment of the undersecretary position, in accordance with the 2014 farm bill.

Lively on new Undersecretary

Meanwhile, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer was sworn in May 15 as the new U.S. trade representative.

Lively on Lighthizer

Vice President Mike Pence is calling Lighthizer “uniquely qualified” for the job and says he’ll help ensure the nation’s trade deals benefit the American people.

Lighthizer was confirmed last week on a bipartisan vote despite complaints from some Republicans that the Trump administration has an “incoherent and inconsistent trade message.”


Pulling the Plug on TPP — Washington Watch Audio

Reports of the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement might be a little bit premature, because some of the deal’s members are considering moving forward without the U.S.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP, a broad 12-nation trade deal, which he claimed was a “disaster” that would hurt U.S. manufacturing.

Although Japanese officials initially said that the TPP would be “meaningless” without the U.S., more recently, Japanese officials have begun to follow Australia’s calls to proceed without the U.S. on the deal.

Trump’s decision to walk away from TPP may have damaged a chance for the U.S. to assert itself as a leader in global trade, according to TPP supporters on Capitol Hill.

Wisconsin 3rd District Democrat Congressman Ron Kind.

Listen —>  Ron Kind on TPP Failure

Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner serves as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia.

Listen —>  Cory Gardner on TPP Failure

Trade agreements certainly don’t happen overnight. If a new TPP deal is eventually concluded in a few years, trade supporters are hopeful that other countries,  like the U.S. and South Korea,  might be ready to jump in.