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Indiana Ag Groups: Preserve NAFTA

Farm coalition says even White House chatter about possibility of withdrawal may hurt markets

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana farmers are worried about a possible U.S. pullout from NAFTA.

At a roundtable organized by the pro-NAFTA agribusiness coalition Americans for Farmers and Families, farmers used words like "devastating" and "catastrophic" to describe the impact of blowing up NAFTA.

The corn, soybean, seed and beef industry associations say the 1995 deal which eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers with Mexico and Canada has meant billions more in exports.

Joe Moore with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association says beef exports to Mexico have grown more than eightfold since the deal was signed -- he says it's probably "the biggest success story in the history of U-S beef."

If the U.S. were to quit the deal, Moore and others say there wouldn't be enough buyers for all that they produce. The glut would drive your grocery bill down, but would also drive down farmers' income.

Corn and soybean farmer Mike Beard, a former Clinton County commissioner, says loose talk from the White House about a possible withdrawal is already causing smaller problems.

He argues soybean prices are lower than global supply would seem to dictate, and says there are reports Mexico is putting out feelers to import from other countries instead.

Participants in the roundtable with Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch all use the same word, conceding the agreement can be "modernized."

But Cory Harris with the Indiana Soybean Alliance says those changes are primarily in technological and intellectual-property arenas which hadn't been envisioned when the agreement was signed. He says the farm portion of the deal is working as well as it possibly could.

Crouch says she and Governor Holcomb have written U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to explain the importance of the trade deal to the state. And Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Bruce Kettler says the state has been talking to Indiana's congressional delegation.

(Photo: valio84sl/Thinkstock)

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