Warner, Kaine urge Trump to protect agriculture industry in NAFTA negotiations
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged the Trump Administration to protect Virginia’s agriculture producers and the national agricultural economy asnegotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter a critical stage. Last week, President Trump threatened to stop the free trade agreement as a way to pressure Mexico on border security.
“Throughout the negotiation process, we have been concerned by President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, along with other protectionist trade policies being pursued by the Administration. Withdrawal from the agreement would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy that would affect each state and nearly every job sector,” Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually that provides more than 334,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.
“In Virginia alone, 46,000 to 96,000 jobs could be at risk if the U.S. exited the agreement. Thousands of these job losses would include farmers and workers in other agriculture and forestry-related industries across the country…actual withdrawal from NAFTA would seriously destabilize the integrated supply chains that have taken decades to establish and imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Virginians and millions more across the U.S.,” added the Senators.
“The Virginia Cattlemen’s Association appreciates the support Senators Warner and Kaine are offering for continued negotiation of NAFTA, an important facilitator of continued trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico that has greatly benefited the vast majority of Virginia and US agricultural commodities,” said Jason H. Carter, Executive Director of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association & Virginia Beef Industry Council.
“The NAFTA markets are important to Virginia’s poultry industry, and it is critical that the current renegotiation not only preserve, but actually expand access to these markets,” said Hobey Bauhan, President of the Virginia Poultry Federation.
Sens. Warner and Kaine also pushed the Administration to negotiate greater access of U.S. poultry exports to Canadian markets. According to the Virginia Poultry Federation, Virginia’s poultry industry employs as many as 17,637 people across the Commonwealth and generates an additional 32,983 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. As of 2016, Virginia ranks 10th nationally in broiler chicken production and 6th in turkey production.
Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine similarly raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties.