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Dairy provisions in NAFTA not yet decided

Photo by Anna Hastert

Milk is among one of the most at risk commodities in United States agriculture.

Dairy farmers say they are on a high wire bicycle that has to be ridden and balanced at the same time. There is a net, but it is pretty close to the ground.

North American Free Trade (NAFTA) talks are expected to continue for several more months and the outcome, especially on dairy, is unknown.

United States dairy farmers are hanging on and trying to stay in business. Not only due to the situation with Canada, but also because the Mexican market is vital to U.S. dairy producers.

National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) spokesman Chris Galen says NAFTA should “Do No Harm” to dairy trade with Mexico.

“The U.S. shipped $1.2 billion worth of dairy products in 2016,” Galen said. “That’s up from $200 million in 2002 and a much smaller number back in 1992, right before NAFTA was implemented.”

Galen says dairy farmers want to prevent the Administration from walking away from NAFTA. However, with Canada, there are changes that need made — changes that have yet to be addressed in trade agreement talks.

“The dairy market in Canada is really closed off to us,” Galen said. “In fact, what little access we had to Canada in the last five to 10 years has been closed off because of a change in their pricing policies.”

An American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) official recently stated dairy farmers should expect the complex market issues between the U.S. and Canada to be one of the last things addressed in trade talks.

Galen says as the global middle class continues to grow, it is more important for the U.S. to have free trade deals around the world. He adds such agreements would allow American farmers to meet the need of the growing dairy diet internationally.