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Lawmakers and agricultural groups team up in support of NAFTA

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers and agricultural groups have joined with Americans for Farmers & Families to urge President Donald Trump and Congress to not withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has criticized NAFTA as not being in the best interest of the U.S.

In a “roll-out” meeting earlier this month, lawmakers and policy advocates met to discuss the importance of NAFTA to Missouri’s farm economy and the impact withdrawing from the trade agreement could have on the state.

According to Sen. Dan Hegeman, a Republican who represents most of northwest Missouri, 64 percent of Missouri exports go to free trade markets like Canada and Mexico.

“These 250,000 jobs with agriculture are very important and dependent on these type of trade agreements,” said Hegeman. “We produce a whole lot more feed and fiber and product than we could possibly use in the state of Missouri, so exports and trade are dramatically important for us.”

Scott Hays, a member of the Missouri Pork Producers, pointed out that free trade agreements like NAFTA move Missouri products to a global market and keep prices low for consumers in the U.S.

Eliminating NAFTA markets would devalue Missouri products and could lead to a loss of economic activity in the state, said Shane Kinne, policy director for the Missouri Corn Growers.

“Every dollar in agricultural export generates about $1.27 in economic activity every year,” said Dave Drennan of the Missouri Dairy Association.

Hegeman pointed out that the trade agreement goes both ways, and consumers could possibly see an increase in prices for agricultural imports from Mexico without NAFTA.

Members of the coalition hope that the president and Congress take a “do no harm” approach to agriculture when it comes to negotiations and don’t use the industry as a bargaining tool.

Trump has the ability to withdraw from the trade agreement through a six-month notice to Mexico and Canada. However, Congress has a say as well since the agreement was enacted through legislation. Congress can fight to keep NAFTA intact, as well as introduce legislation that would give it more authority over trade agreements.

Follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinAAchenbach

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