By Kate Thiel*
Trade is ever-present in farmers’ minds today. Several trade agreements and negotiations have been the focus of ag industry conversations for months, across the nation. Those conversations are complex and overwhelming to say the least—and hugely important, because international trade has been a stable, well-defined opportunity for agriculture for more than 20 years.
The original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) stabilized and increased access for American farmers to export commodities to both Canada and Mexico. Not every commodity benefited from NAFTA, but over time it became clear the agreement was a big win for Michigan and our agriculture sector.
Now, fast-forward to 2018. Not only has NAFTA been up for renegotiation, but the U.S. finds itself reopening a number of trade agreements simultaneously—many of which have a direct impact on agriculture and farmers’ bottom line.
Farmers, agricultural organizations and the media often focus on the largest commodity sectors, overlooking trade’s impact outside corn, soybeans, wheat, livestock and dairy. But the amazing diversity of Michigan agriculture means we can’t afford to forget the profound impact trade negotiations have on other industry segments. No blueberries, cherries or dry beans left behind!
Did I say dry beans? Let’s look at them for a moment…
What country is the number one destination for Michigan black beans?
And what Michigan-grown bean is sent to canneries in the United Kingdom and Italy?
Without a place in the CME Group—a large financial market company where options and futures exchanges happen—dry beans producers, shippers and processors have worked diligently to build strong, viable relationships over the years to ensure stable global markets for their products.
Trade negotiations take their toll on these relationships and as such careful maintenance and diligent communication is needed to ensure the markets remain an option for Michigan producers.
Share your responses here.
* KATE THIEL is development manager of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. Prior to that she served MFB as our Field Crops and Advisory Team Specialist, and as a regional representative in the Saginaw Valley.