The North American Free Trade Agreement has been overwhelmingly beneficial for U.S. farmers and ranchers—and their counterparts in Canada and Mexico—but there are several good reasons to update and reform NAFTA from agriculture’s perspective, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Under NAFTA, U.S. farmers and ranchers have seen their exports to Mexico and Canada grow significantly, from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016.
While some of the areas prime for improvement are commodity-specific, others apply sector-wide, such as reducing redundant regulatory costs, expediting transit across borders and hastening the resolution of disputes between members, Dale Moore, AFBF executive director of public policy, noted in comments recently submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative.
Some of the changes farmers are calling for are related to the modernization of the industry.
He continued, “We also believe negotiations should address how U.S. agricultural exports to Canada would grow if tariff barriers to dairy, poultry and eggs were reduced or eliminated, as well as the relatively recent barriers to ultra-filtered milk exports.”
Additional commodity-specific challenges with Canada are related to specialty and row crops, lumber, wine and other products. Individual commodities of concern with Mexico are tomatoes, other fruits and vegetables and sugar.
In a handful of areas, AFBF recommended the inclusion of provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including language related to food safety (sanitary and phytosanitary measures), the movement of goods through customs within 48 hours, quick resolutions on disputes involving active shipments and geographical indicators.
“The misuse of GIs is a constant and significant threat to maintaining and growing sales of high-value U.S. products in the United States, within the markets of our NAFTA partners and in markets worldwide,” Moore wrote.
Enhanced cooperation among U.S., Canadian and Mexican regulatory agencies to prevent trade disruptions related to agricultural production technologies like biotechnology is also important, AFBF said.
Under a modernized NAFTA, U.S. farmers are asking the U.S. government to enter a mutual recognition agreement on the safety determination of biotech food and feed crops and to develop a consistent approach to managing the low-level presence of products that have undergone a complete safety assessment and are approved for use in a third country but have not yet been approved by a NAFTA member.
Moore also noted that the integration of the three countries’ agricultural sectors enables consumers and farmers and ranchers across the U.S., Canada and Mexico to benefit more fully from their strengths and to respond more effectively to changing economic conditions. On this front, U.S. farmers and ranchers have benefited from more than just a sizable increase in their exports.
“The creation of a larger, single market has given producers access to cheaper suppliers of inputs, which allows U.S. producers to be more price-competitive domestically and abroad,” he wrote.