Talk by President Trump about withdrawing from NAFTA sent shock waves through agriculture; shock waves felt in Nebraska.
Mexico is the number one buyer of Nebraska corn.
“You’re talking about, again, billions of dollars worth of trade that is at risk if you disrupt this relationship with Mexico,” Gov. Pete Ricketts told reporters during a recent news conference. “When you’re looking at the state of Nebraska, nearly 34,000 jobs being dependent on upon that that impacts actual families here in our state.”
Trade with Mexico is estimated to have a $287 million impact on the state economy. Mexico is the largest market for U.S. corn, buying approximately 20% of the corn and corn co-products produced in this country. Last year, Mexico bought 523.5 million bushels of corn from the United States, valued at $2.5 billion. The U.S. also exported 1.9 million metric tons of distiller’s dried grains with solubles, a byproduct of ethanol.
The testimonial to the positive impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement came as state and national grain industry leaders hosted a trade delegation from Mexico. It also came as talk about the future of NAFTA intensifies in Washington, D.C., in large part because of President Trump’s negative comments about the trade agreement reached more than 20 years ago among the three main countries of North America: the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
State agricultural officials report Mexico is Nebraska’s largest export market for corn, dairy, sugar, and sweeteners. It is the second largest market for soybeans, wheat, sorghum, and distillers grains.
The delegation of Mexican grain and industry officials visited Nebraska as guests of the Nebraska Corn Board, the U.S. Grains Council, and the National Corn Growers Association. The delegation traveled to Washington to join American farmers in touting the benefits of NAFTA on United States agriculture.
NAFTA allows Mexico to import American corn without tariffs or duties. Just the talk of withdrawing from NAFTA or modifying the agreement has prompted Mexican officials to explore other options, such as buying grain from Brazil.
United States Grains Council President Tom Sleight, in Nebraska with the Mexican trade delegation, said NAFTA has served American agriculture well.
“We would like to see this trade maintained, because again, it’s our best customer; very, very important to us,” Sleight said.
Both Sleight and National Corn Growers Vice President Jon Doggett stated even speculation about NAFTA has shaken the relationship with stable trade partners.
“That has been the biggest problem,” according to Doggett. “We have heard this over and over again from our guests, they’re concerned about the speculation and the rhetoric.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]