Donald Trump promised farmers that his desire to renegotiate NAFTA would help farms. But now, the agriculture groups from red states all across the heartland are starting to fight for NAFTA and consider it crucial to their industry.
Though they were warned about potentially losing most of the $17.9 billion in products exported to Mexico, the agricultural lobby was silent on president’s NAFTA plans. They believed that the Trump administration would work out some kind settlement on aspects of NAFTA, but leave agriculture alone.
But just like many other groups, they’re realizing that voting Trump might not have been in their best interests. the president is threatening to withdraw from the deal entirely, and farming groups are finding their pleas to save the trade agreement falling on deaf ears.
“I’ve come to believe this administration is determined to end NAFTA,” said Gordon Stoner, a fourth-generation Montana wheat farmer who leads the National Association of Wheat Growers.
If they fail to sway Donald Trump to stay with NAFTA, it will be a clear sign that the industry has lost its influence over politics. There’s also a growing awareness that the agriculture lobby failed to coordinate on a plan to stop the threats Trump poses to trade.
“The importance of trade to economic growth in the food and ag sector is so fundamental that there tends to be an assumption that everyone understands that,” one association leader told POLITICO. “We can get lazy about our meeting our educational challenge in explaining that part of our industry to others.”
However, the agriculture industry just came out swinging, releasing a letter directly challenging Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after he publicly denied the idea that withdrawing from NAFTA would be detrimental to American exports.
“Unless countries are going to be prepared to have their people go hungry or change their diets, I think it’s more of a threat to try to frighten the agricultural community,” Ross said during a public event on Oct. 11.
The letter also addresses Trump’s recent threat to lawmakers, saying he would send notice that the America would withdraw from the agreement to pressure Canada and Mexico to give into his demands.
However, this would be “cataclysmic” to the industry. “Contracts would be canceled, sales would be lost, able competitors would rush to seize our export markets, and litigation would abound even before withdrawal would take effect,” more than 80 associations wrote in their letter to Ross.
Fortunately, they at least have Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on their side, but he still ultimately supports the President. “The president is determined to get a better deal for American agricultural producers. At the end of the day I think he will achieve that,” Perdue said in a statement to POLITICO.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department is preparing for contingency plans if Trump withdraws from NAFTA.
“We’re talking with the administration and Congress about some mitigation efforts if that were to occur; about how we could protect our producers with that [farm] safety net based on prices that may respond negatively to any kind of NAFTA withdrawal,” Perdue told reporters this week.
President Trump is making farmers, one of the groups he claims were “forgotten,” fight for their livelihoods. If this is what Trump is doing to the people he remembers, maybe people are better off forgotten.
Read the entire report at Politico.