Donald Trump promised farmers that his desire to renegotiate NAFTA would help farms. But now, the agriculture groups from red states all across the heartland are starting to fight for NAFTA and consider it crucial to their industry.
Though they were warned about potentially losing most of the $17.9 billion in products exported to Mexico, the agricultural lobby was silent on president’s NAFTA plans. They believed that the Trump administration would work out some kind settlement on aspects of NAFTA, but leave agriculture alone.
But just like many other groups, they’re realizing that voting Trump might not have been in their best interests. the president is threatening to withdraw from the deal entirely, and farming groups are finding their pleas to save the trade agreement falling on deaf ears.
“I’ve come to believe this administration is determined to end NAFTA,” said Gordon Stoner, a fourth-generation Montana wheat farmer who leads the National Association of Wheat Growers.
If they fail to sway Donald Trump to stay with NAFTA, it will be a clear sign that the industry has lost its influence over politics. There’s also a growing awareness that the agriculture lobby failed to coordinate on a plan to stop the threats Trump poses to trade.
“The importance of trade to economic growth in the food and ag sector is so fundamental that there tends to be an assumption that everyone understands that,” one association leader told POLITICO. “We can get lazy about our meeting our educational challenge in explaining that part of our industry to others.”
However, the agriculture industry just came out swinging, releasing a letter directly challenging Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after he publicly denied the idea that withdrawing from NAFTA would be detrimental to American exports.