Wisconsin farmers waiting to see impact of trade agreements on industry

cows in field

WESTBY, Wis. (WKBT)– Wisconsin farmers are considering what new international trade agreements could mean for the struggling industry. Looking at Wisconsin, its three top export markets are Canada, China and Mexico.

President Donald Trump signed off on the US-Mexico-Canada agreement Wednesday, and phase one of an agreement with China earlier this month. After years of back and forth trade wars, the President and some agriculture groups are taking this as a win. But others are more cautious as they wait to see how this trickles down to family farms.

“Canada will finally provide greater access for American dairy,” said Trump, following a signing ceremony.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the agreement would increase dairy exports by $227 million to Canada. Both the report and the president for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Darin Von Ruden, said that’s a small gain.

“They just simply don’t have enough population in Canada to take care of the excess milk and dairy products we’re producing in the United States,” said Von Ruden.

As for the agreement with China, the Trump administration said China will buy $40 billion a year in agriculture products.

“Negotiations were tough, honest, open and respectful leading us to this really incredible breakthrough,” President Trump said, during a signing ceremony.

But the biggest year of US agriculture exports to China was in 2013, with $29.4 billion in exports.

“Having them get to that $40 billion mark just seems unreasonable,” Von Ruden said.

Farmers do have the capability to meet these goals, especially if they increased the price of the products. But if prices suddenly went up on things like soybeans or corn, Chinese consumers would likely not buy them.

And, Von Ruden says the impact of the deal could be minimal, as china has other international partners that they relied on during the back and forth on tariffs.

“They’ve got good relationships with them now,” Von Ruden said.

Overall, Von Ruden said it was good to renegotiate the trade deals. But looking at some of the components, there isn’t that big of a change and a lot that has yet to be seen.

Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind is weighing in on the USMCA agreement. Kind said in a statement that he looks forward to working with trade allies to continue advancing a North American economy that creates good-paying jobs.

“Now that USMCA is finally signed into law, my colleagues and I must get to work on reasserting Congress’s role over tariff policy and giving our farmers the true relief they deserve – relief from the Administration’s dangerous tariffs,” said Kind, in a press release.

Citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office, Kind said the tariffs will have a larger negative impact compared to gains from the USMCA.