It’s the latest topic on a trade carousel that seems to keep going around in circles. First, it was our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that left our trade future with Japan in question. Next, it was time to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and renegotiate with our neighbors to the north and south. Finally, the first shots were fired in a trade war with China. Now, we are looking at the future of trade with both the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) in a post-Brexit world. Some farmers have already told this reporter that they are watching this with a stronger microscope and a fresh memory, but one Iowa Senator is urging farmers not to worry.
Agriculture was and is the easiest American target in a trade disagreement. We are good at what we do in our fields, and it is where the current administration found its strongest base of support. Agriculture did bear the brunt of the trade situation which broiled over the past two years. It was because of this that the Trump Administration issued the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments to help farmers recoup some of the losses they were facing through no fault of their own. Those payments did what they were designed to do, and helped farmers hang on. But those payments are over.
Trade is back on a path forward within the past few months. We have phase-one agreements with both Japan and China. Both agreements are focused heavily on agriculture, which President Trump said was a priority for his trade team. We saw the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) drawn up and ratified by the U.S. and Mexico, with Canada anticipated to be soon behind. With these going into effect, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue said that MFP payments would no longer be necessary.
But, what about the EU and the UK?
The Trump Administration has set its sights on getting trade deals secured with both European entities, as soon as they iron out their own trade situation. We explored that situation yesterday. However, agriculture is once again at the forefront of the discussions. We have gotten mixed messages from the European Union over whether they would be willing to negotiate on agricultural trade. The last message being, “absolutely not.”
This time around farmers are watching the developments with a closer eye. Fresh from the feelings and results of the past trade negotiations, they wonder what the future will hold if a trade negotiation across the pond devolves into tariffs and retaliation. Will they once again be the target? Trade certainty is on tenuous ground that is slowly being reinforced. Can we withstand another hit? Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa answered that question from me this noon when she told farmers there is no need for farmers to be panicked at this time. She said President Trump’s trade team is keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops and grows.
Senator Ernst said President Trump is concerned with the status of the American Farmer. She says the President still asks her how things will affect the American farmer even after the trade negotiations that have been completed at this point.
Ernst wrapped up her comments on this topic by saying that having hard-fought trade deals is better than having no trade deals.
Ernst again reiterated the call for farmers not to panic when there is nothing to panic about at this time. She says Washington is going to keep a close eye on the trade situation with the European Union and the United Kingdom. However, I am also just as certain the American farmer will be keeping just as close an eye on it as well.