As the dust settles on the new U.S. Mexico Canada trade deal Ohio farmers are among those thankful that it maintains the trade that has been established over the last two decades with Mexico while hopefully opening up Canadian markets to things like dairy.
Since 1995 U.S. corn exports to Mexico for example went from just under $400 million a year to $2.4 billion in 2015. The same couldn't be said for aspects of our trade agreements with Canada.
"Dairy farmers for instance, a gallon of milk in Canada, a U.S. gallon of milk in Canada is three times more expensive than is a Canadian gallon of milk," said Portage County Farmer Charles Sayre. "Well those hopefully will go away with this new deal. We don't have all of the details yet, we don't know what's happening but we're hoping those kinds of regulations will be eased and it makes more markets for the Ohio farmer."
While dairy and corn see benefits in the deal, Sayre said it does little to help soybean farmers like himself who are still dealing with the impact that 25 percent tariffs China imposed earlier this summer on soybean imports.
Soybeans are Ohio's largest agricultural export, totaling $1.4 billion in 2016 with nearly half of what was exported (40 percent) going to China, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The demand for U.S. soybeans in China has been strong in recent years, fueled by the growing demand for meat in the Chinese diet and soybean meal to feed those livestock.
But prices Ohio farmers are getting for their crops are literally half of what they were just eight years ago.
"We can't sustain this for much longer," Sayre said. "A lot of farmers they have to answer to their bankers come January or February for next year's crop and if this doesn't get solved soon they're going to be in a lot of trouble."
"To keep agriculture going in Ohio in the next few months we need something solved quickly," Sayre said.
The Sayre's also operate a crop dusting business and are constantly talking to farmers around the state. They said the consensus among many of the farmers they speak to is as tough as a hit as it is in the short term something needed to be done to level the playing field with China.
"President Trump got elected in big part because of the U.S. farmer," Sayre said. "Things have been tapering off for years, not just the previous administration but administrations before that."
"We needed somebody that was going to get in there and straighten things out business wise. What were called free trade agreements in the past were never free, they were never fair to the U.S. farmer. We need things to be more fair and allow us to sell our products," Sayre said.
And work out a deal with China in much the same way they've been able to hammer one out with our North American allies.
"Hopefully this administration can make these deals and that's what we're expecting and that's what we're hoping but it needs to be in the short term, it needs to happen quickly."