John Block: NAFTA

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Today, let’s talk about trade and tax reform. President Trump wants to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Congress is presenting a tax reform package. NAFTA is in the spotlight right now. The whole farm and food industry is worried that President Trump could formally withdraw the U.S. from that agreement.

Eighty organizations and companies sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, saying that withdrawal would be a disaster for agriculture and rural America.

Here is the cost:

1. We would sacrifice 50,000 jobs in our industry and a national drop in GDP of $13 billion.

2. We would erase $800 million in the value of corn and increase farm program costs by $1.2 billion.

3. We would lose $500 million in high fructose corn exports.

Mexico and Canada account for 40% of our pork exports. Canada is our second largest chicken market. 70% of our turkey exports go to Mexico. Mexico and Canada account for 27% of total beef shipments. Dairy exports to Mexico equal $1 billion per year.

If we pull out of NAFTA, we run the risk of losing all of the favorable ag trade advantage that our industry enjoys today. I realize that, overall, we run a trade deficit with both Mexico and Canada, but for the food and agricultural industries, it is positive.

We are making our concerns known loud and clear; hopefully, we can get a reasonable resolution. We did it before.

Just last month, the ag industry joined together to urge President Trump to keep in place the renewable fuels standard. We got that done in spite of the EPA that wanted to weaken biofuels targets. Never a dull moment out here.

On tax reform, the Republicans want to lower the corporate tax rate and cut personal income taxes. That sounds good to me, but where do we get the money to run the government? That is the challenge. I will talk in detail on this issue next week.

Our soybeans are all in the bin at the farm. Corn is maybe a week behind. Be safe in your harvest.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit johnblockreports.com.

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