Farmers watching NAFTA negotiations closely

President Donald Trump has said the US would leave the agreement if he negotiates a better deal for the U.S., which could hurt the economies of Indiana and Ohio.

Posted: Feb 5, 2018 10:35 PM
Updated: Feb 6, 2018 8:39 AM

DeKALB COUNTY, Ind. (WFFT) - Officials from the United States are trying to re-work the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA was created 24 years ago to help encourage trade among the countries. It also got rid of Mexico's high tariff's on goods.

President Donald Trump has said the US would leave the agreement if he negotiates a better deal for the U.S., which could hurt the economies of Indiana and Ohio.

NAFTA has encouraged companies to move manufacturing to Mexico. Many companies took advantage of that, including auto manufacturing companies and recently Carrier's Indianapolis plant.

However, renegotiating NAFTA could have a big impact on Hoosier farmers and the idea of leaving has many farmers worried because the deal is working for them.

"There are those pieces and those provisions that are immensely beneficial to agriculture. If those are given up or forgone at the expense of something else then it's really going to have some impacts here," said Sarah Delbecq, owner of Brechbill Farms.

Delbecq is one of many farmers keeping an eye on negotiations.

Her farm north of Garrett produces corn, and she says having NAFTA helps make U.S. agriculture more competitive in the global market.

"They're more likely to take our exports when there's an agreement like NAFTA in place," Delbecq says. "If NAFTA went away completely, then what they would likely do is go to other countries."

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

He said the manufacturing portion of NAFTA is where the US is losing.

"I want to make sure it is reworked to benefit our manufactures as well," says Donnelly. "[We want to make sure] our manufacturers don't wind up being treated unfairly."

He added he wants to keep agriculture protections in place.

Mexico buys 25% of all the corn exported from the United States, which means big money for Indiana farmers. However, IPFW economist Zafar Nazarov sees things differently.

"It looks like farmers will be losing more than manufacturing is gaining," Nazarov said.

Delbecq said her farm could lose $80,000 a year if NAFTA goes away.

"Just a number like that, to have $80,000 go away in one year because of a removal of a trade agreement, can hit pretty close to home," said Delbecq. "[And] that's just our farm."

She added she's confident farmers will still benefit from a new agreement because former Indiana Director of Agriculture Ted McKinney is helping with the trade agreement.

"When someone who knows Indiana agriculture almost better than anyone is sent off to Washington to help protect trade and talk about trade when it relates to agriculture...you feel pretty good about having an advocate like that in place," Delbecq said.

The NAFTA negotiations have been going on for nearly seven months.

World leaders said they have missed several deadlines along the way, saying they'd rather have a good deal for everyone instead of a rushed deal.

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