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Senators discuss post-NAFTA safety net

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) met with agriculture and trade Senators this week.

USTR Robert Lighthizer updated the senators on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The meeting comes after five rounds of negotiation which have provided no indication on the agreement’s future. However, rumors suggest the Trump Administration leans toward withdrawing from the twenty-four-year-old agreement.

Senator Charles (Chuck) Grassley (R-IA) attended this week’s meeting. Grassley says he too has heard rumors.

“I’ve heard rumors from people in the bureaucracy who are trying to anticipate, if that’s a possibility, what we are going to do to protect farmers from drops in price,” Grassley said. “There’s some talk about putting together a pot of money to support prices that would fall apart if we pull out of NAFTA.”

Grassley expressed concern about the special fund rumor at an earlier meeting.

“I told my fellow Senators that that’s kind of an indication that somebody thinks things aren’t going to work out with NAFTA,” Grassley said. “I don’t know if it has legs or not. I was informed about it from a person that ought to know what he’s talking about.”

Grassley’s staff would not say if the meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer shed any light on the survival of NAFTA.

Grassley says withdrawing from NAFTA would be “disastrous” for United States agriculture. The agreement has helped quadruple United States agricultural sales to Mexico and Canada, the top two markets for U.S. products.

Officials will meet in Canada in January for the next round of negotiations.