News of a new U.S./Mexico trade agreement was welcomed for Rochester-area dairy farmers.
“Any trade deal is good news for agriculture in the country, and for U.S dairy farmers in particular,” declared Farmington dairyman Hal Adams.
Adams described how low milk prices have brought lean times for farms like his.
Then, the squeeze got even worse when President Trump’s trade showdown with Mexico brought higher Mexican tariffs on American products, particularly cheese, putting an extra drag on milk product sales.
“This disruption over automobiles and jobs… and there have been retaliatory tariffs on dairy products. That’s not good news for us.”
On Monday, the president revealed the agreement in an Oval Office news conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto joining him by speaker phone.
“Our farmers are going to be so happy,” he said. “It’s an incredible deal. It’s an incredible deal for both parties.”
In announcing the new accord, the president said he intended eventually to have such agreements replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico which he has long criticized, calling it a bad deal for Americans.
Much of the deal focuses on cars, car parts, workers’ wages and labor standards but with 25-percent of U.S. dairy exports going to Mexco, Adams cheered the prospect of new stability and reliability in trade relations with the U.S.’s southern neighbor.
“Trade depends on partners being reliable,” he explained. “So we need to get back to being a reliable trade partner with Mexico. When they pick up the phone, we’ve got to be ready to sell our products.”
Unlike NAFTA, the new agreement does not include Canada.
The president predicted a next step of conversations to either loop the Canadians into the new pact or strike a separate agreement.
In his remarks he also dangled the threat of tariffs on cars.
“We’ll start negotiating with Canada relatively soon,” he proclaimed. “They want to start. They want to negotiate very badly.”
Adams pointed to the biggest sticking point for American farmers wishing to sell in Canada, Canadian milk production quotas which dairy farmers say unfairly limit their opportunities north of the border.
Such limits, he said, have been a fact of life for all his 35 years in the dairy industry.
On top of this, he expects that convincing Canadian leaders to change them will be a tough sell.
“Canada is going to be a tough nut to crack,” he warned. “It sounds good but I do believe it’s going to be a tough discussion.”
With almost 400 cows, Adams described his farm as a small one but an operation able to withstand the grueling ups and downs of the market during a trade war because of his lack of debt and its lean operation.
In the spring, he eliminated one job on the farm which cut costs, although it meant a steeper work load for him.
Other farmers, he feared, might not be able to keep up with their expenses and, in some cases, heavy debt loads but he said he preferred to be hopeful.
“My wife and I we work seven days a week,” he said. “From five in the morning to eight at night. And we’re tired. But we’re doing it. It’s our choice”