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Farm Bureau says modernized NAFTA must work for U.S. agriculture

North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations need to protect valuable market gains for U.S. agriculture while addressing remaining challenges in the closest international markets, Jason Perdue, a row crop, beef and poultry farmer from Nebraska, told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade recently.

congress“NAFTA has been beneficial for farmers, ranchers and associated businesses all across the United States, Canada and Mexico for decades,” Perdue said in testimony on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

According to Farm Bureau, agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico increased from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.1 billion in 2016. Perdue said NAFTA has been a boon to trade in his state, with ag exports from Nebraska reaching $1.5 billion in 2016.

U.S. farmers and ranchers look forward to building on those gains with a modernized NAFTA, Perdue said. “U.S. agriculture depends upon a growing international economy that provides opportunities for farmers and ranchers to sell their products, and a modernized NAFTA will help expand those market opportunities for America’s farm and ranch businesses.”

Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, a state-level AFBF affiliate, said Canada and Mexico are two of Virginia’s top five agricultural export markets.

“The two countries combined make up approximately 15 percent of all 2016 Virginia ag exports, which totaled $2.78 billion,” Banks explained. “Processed food and beverages, along with pork, wheat, poultry and tobacco are the leading Virginia exports to Canada and Mexico.”

Farm Bureau priorities for a modernized NAFTA include updated, science-based sanitary and phytosanitary rules; improved dispute settlement procedures for fresh fruits, vegetables and horticultural products; eliminated or reduced Canadian tariff barriers to dairy—including ultra-filtered milk, poultry, eggs and wine; attention to the misuse of food labeling terms; and development of a consistent, science-based approach to biotechnology.

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