Indiana ag leaders: NAFTA overhaul would devastate farmers

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Photo of volunteers harvesting the Wollyung farm on November 12, 2016 courtesy of Tara Henry

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Leaders of Indiana’s agriculture industry say President Donald Trump’s plan to either overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement or withdraw the U.S. from the deal could be a dangerous blow to the state’s farmers.

The 1994 trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico has benefited American farmers who export corn and other products, The Journal Gazette reported. But Trump has blamed the pact for a loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

NAFTA “has been a tremendous trade agreement for agriculture,” said Joe Moore, executive vice president of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association.

Moore said he agrees with assessments that an end to U.S. participation in NAFTA would hurt “agriculture in all respects.” He said beef producers would encounter a 20 percent tariff on exports to Mexico.

DeKalb County farmer Sarah Delbecq is president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. She said if the U.S. pulls out of NAFTA it “would be particularly catastrophic for Indiana corn farmers.”

She said Purdue University has estimated that corn prices would fall as much as 50 cents a bushel a year without NAFTA.

Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Bruce Kettler, said 42 percent of Indiana’s nearly $1.5 billion in yearly agriculture exports goes to Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA renegotiations among the countries’ trade officials began in August. The next round of talks is scheduled to begin Feb. 25.

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