By Zippy Duvall
President, American Farm Bureau Federation
The Trump administration has made it official: the United States is out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For now, anyway.
Those of us who recognized the deal’s benefits for farmers and ranchers, including $4.4 billion a year in added farm income, are hopeful that this amounts to just hitting the pause button to ensure that trade benefits all sectors of the economy as much as it has benefited agricultural producers. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect. At least a third of what we produce on our farms and ranches goes to overseas markets. Our agricultural economy depends on growing trade and exports.
However, trade deals need to work for all Americans. Many of us have family members with off-farm jobs affected by trade. Just like our non-farming friends, we want to live in vibrant communities. Also, ensuring that agreements create opportunities for more Americans helps agriculture by broadening the base of support for expanding trade. So if we need to take more time to get it right, let’s get it right. But let’s also make sure this pause is brief.
The administration and Congress need to act quickly to map out a new path forward on trade. Otherwise, U.S. farmers’ and ranchers’ competitors around the world will get an advantage as they continue to negotiate deals with each other. With TPP, the United States and Japan were the two big players. Japan ratified the deal about a week ago, just days before the U.S. withdrew. Now, China has the perfect opening to come in and take our place, locking up lower tariffs and better terms than our exports will face.
I look forward to working with President Trump’s nominees to serve as Agriculture Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Robert Lighthizer, and others in the new administration to ensure that the United States—U.S. agriculture in particular—benefits from growing markets and growing access to those markets around the world.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.