Farmers push for change amid heated trade talks

Some Wisconsin farmers are stressing the importance of remaining in NAFTA as tensions mount in ongoing trade talks.

But others say the current system of trade policies needs fundamental change, as producers struggle with oversupply and an inability to make some goods as cheaply as other parts of the world.

“Our current approach to trade is not serving farmers well,” said Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “With over 20 percent of U.S. agricultural output headed for international markets, farmers have become vulnerable to factors over which they have no control, such as exchange rates or trade wars with other countries.”

“U.S. farmers cannot afford to see NAFTA terminated, but the agreement should be restructured,” said Michael Slattery, a produce and livestock farmer in Manitowoc County. “NAFTA and other ‘free’ trade agreements encourage excess production based on the false premise that we can export our way to agricultural prosperity.”

Slattery says NAFTA doesn’t address the fundamental problem of overproduction, and argues supply management programs for U.S. dairy, grains and meat “would stabilize and improve farmers’ bottom line.”

These comments come in the wake of heated negotiations between the United States and Canada, in which President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau traded barbs and threats of further action after the United States imposed tariffs on Canada and other close trade allies. Read the full story here.