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American Farmers React as Trade Tensions Flare

Once again, farmer groups expressed concern over the heated rhetoric coming out of the White House over trade agreements. The American Soybean Association and U.S. wheat groups were especially critical as a result of indications that the White House would withdraw from the free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea as early as Tuesday.

“As soybean farmers, we benefit greatly from exports, which contribute a $2 billion annual surplus to our nation’s balance of trade. Trade makes our local businesses and our communities stronger. Yet whether it’s South Korea, Mexico, Canada, or our neighbors on the Pacific Rim, we once again find ourselves fighting to communicate the value of trade to farmers,” said ASA President Ron Moore in a statement.

“We believe it would be irresponsible to unilaterally walk away from this or any other trade agreement,” said Mike Miller, U.S. Wheat Associates chairman and a wheat grower from Ritzville, Washington. “Withdrawing raises the specter of retaliation against agricultural exports and creates unnecessary uncertainty in the market.”

Miller said withdrawing would simply open up the market to “Australia, Canada, and even Russia … at a time when we are all struggling to stay profitable.”

At the same time, the White House warned that the U.S. would cut off trade with any country that also trades with North Korea. China was swift to respond, calling the White House statement “unacceptable,” according to Politico. Any trade action against China could also impact U.S. companies that import $40 billion worth of goods from China every month. American farmers would also take a direct hit if China retaliated, since China is the No. 1 market for U.S. farm goods.

Meanwhile, the latest round of NAFTA talks between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico ended without “any major breakthroughs or agreements on even the least-contentious topics,” Bloomberg reported.

“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is scheduled to speak publicly alongside Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday to conclude the second round of talks toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement,” Bloomberg said.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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