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American Farmers Hoping for Economic Gains from NAFTA Talks

2017-09-11

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  • In August, the United States began renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
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  • As a candidate for president, Donald Trump called for talks on reworking the 1994 agreement, known as NAFTA.
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  • One result of NAFTA was an increase in agricultural exports from the United States.
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  • So American farmers are worried that any changes to the trade deal could hurt them financially.
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  • Ken Beck is a farmer in the state of Illinois.
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  • He says it is not easy to grow crops now.
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  • “Risky at best. There is no money in this game anymore.”
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  • Beck says his farm has been losing money in each of the past four years.
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  • He says corn and soy prices have dropped, while costs for fertilizer and seed are rising.
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  • He believes that the U.S. government can help him and other farmers by increasing trade.
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  • His hopes for increased demand, and higher crop prices, ended when the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP agreement.
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  • That is why Beck is closely watching the U.S. efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.
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  • “For a corn producer, grain producer, NAFTA’s been extremely good.”
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  • The United States is one of the top suppliers of agricultural products to Mexico.
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  • The U.S. exported more than $2.5 billion in corn to its southern neighbor in 2016.
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  • But this year there has been a decrease in Mexican imports of U.S. corn and soybean.
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  • Beck says that is because Mexico is buying crops from other countries.
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  • “Mexico, for the first time in history, bought corn from Argentina. Was it cheaper? No. But they are sending a signal.”
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  • Other signs that worry Beck are coming from President Trump, including his threat to withdraw from NAFTA.
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  • Beck says this creates uncertainty for American farmers.
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  • Tamara Nelsen works for the Illinois Farm Bureau, a non-profit group working for the state’s farmers.
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  • “If you have a shock -- like pulling out of TPP or not keeping the agreement going on NAFTA, it makes the markets nervous and it lowers the farmers’ farm income."
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  • Nelsen says many farmers are worried.
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  • “We hope that some of the rhetoric, like anti-trade, anti-exports for agriculture, will turn around and we’ll actually have some achievements.”
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  • Farmer Ken Beck says he hopes only small changes will be made to NAFTA.
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  • And he says he hopes that whatever changes are made take place soon.
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  • “Decisions in the next few weeks are going to have to be made for next year already."
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  • I’m Phil Dierking.
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