Last week, as we finished up the Spokesman’s 2016 Autumn Harvest section, one thing became crystal clear: this year’s corn and soybean harvests are going to be very big — again.
Sure, the crops in many fields around Iowa and other Corn Belt states have been nicked by late rains, disease and other agronomic issues. But those problems aren’t likely to prevent farmers in Iowa and other states from hauling home another bin buster this fall, just as they have done each year since the 2012 drought.
Our current string of big crops puts a sharp focus on the need to build markets for corn and soybeans and on the increased urgency of getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, passed.
With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of U.S. borders, it’s clear that American agriculture needs exports.
Agreements boost sales
Another thing that’s becoming obvious: nations that have trade agreements with the United States become bigger buyers of our ag products.
That comes through loud and clear in a recent report by Veronica Nigh, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), and Kari Barbic, an AFBF media specialist.
They found that ag exports to countries that have trade agreements with the United States have grown 136 percent over the past dozen years. That’s far faster than sales growth to other countries.
Canada and Mexico, countries linked in the United States through the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, are good examples, Nigh and Barbic showed. Since NAFTA took effect, Canada has moved from fourth place to be the top overall importer of American farm products. Mexico has become the top market for U.S. corn, soybean meal and poultry, and is the second largest market for U.S. pork.
The AFBF report, which you can read at www.fb.org/newsroom/focus/270/, clearly shows the potential value of the TPP, which would break down trade barriers that U.S. farmers face along the Pacific Rim.
Free trade and the TPP have taken plenty of lumps these days on the presidential campaign trail. But, it’s important not to be discouraged by the rhetoric. As Congress ends its summer recess, all of us involved in agriculture need to let lawmakers know just how important it is to support trade and to pass the TPP.