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Montana Ag Network: Trade with Mexico important to U.S. agriculture

Posted at 12:17 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 14:18:07-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico could impact agricultural trade between the two nations.

Agriculture groups are not reacting much to President Trump’s threat of a border closure. They are, however, sharing how important trade with Mexico is for both U.S. agriculture and consumers.

Kent Bacus is the senior director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He said they have serious concerns about closing the border and how it would impact cross-border trade with Mexico.

“Mexico is a billion-dollar export market for us. It’s very important. We export a lot of products to Mexico that quite frankly Americans find less desirable. We can sell tongues and offal and things like that at a premium in the Mexican market,” Bacus said. “It’s important that we keep that free flow of commerce open, but we’re very concerned about any disruption to trade rather than sue tariffs are closing the border.”

The disruption of trade could also impact Montana grain producers. Ledger, Montana farmer Chris Kolstad is chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates and he explained how important of a market Mexico is for U.S. wheat and barley.

“Mexico was the number one buyer of U.S. wheat just a couple of years ago,” Kolstad explained. “In fact, I think they held that title for two straight years. Mexico is a very important market for wheat and for barley as well. They are taking a lot of malt barley. The craft industry is big in Mexico and they like Montana barley.”

A border closure may also impact how Congress will vote on the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“There’s no question that the USMCA is a very important trade agreement that we need Congress to ratify,” Bacus said. “Unfortunately, there are distractions like this threat to the border through ongoing steel and aluminum tariffs and the retaliation on U.S. agriculture that are going to make that difficult.”

While the border issue has the attention of most Americans, a border closure could hurt the pocketbooks of farmers, ranchers, and consumers.

In 2017, Mexico was the third largest ag export market for the U.S., worth $19 billion. The U.S. imported $25 billion of ag products, mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.

-Reported by Lane Nordlund/MTN News