There’s a new farm coalition on U.S. agriculture’s block that’s growing almost by the day. Americans for Farmers and Families is up and running in seven states — Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the latest affiliate, and “we’re in the process of rolling out 10 more,” reports Joshua Baca, AFF spokesperson.
“Major ag groups, Farm Bureau and commodity organizations are the founding members,” he adds. “They saw the need for a coordinated effort to get the message out.”
The message: “Improving NAFTA for the 21st Century to ensure that fair and balanced trade with our partners to the north and south continues to benefit American exporters and consumers, and helping create and grow American jobs.”
As of last week, AFF membership includes more than 50 organizations representing growers, refiners, producers, transporters, retailers and consumer groups, even Walmart. “We have an aggressive educational campaign to highlight the positive impacts NAFTA,” Baca says. “And we’re laying groundwork for an updated trade agreement that preserves America’s strong economic standing for decades to come.”
NAFTA impact on Pennsylvania
Since its implementation more than 20 years ago, NAFTA’s benefits have spread beyond America’s agricultural community. NAFTA has helped grow over 43 million jobs, including more than 1.5 million jobs in Pennsylvania.
Rural communities have been among the biggest winners under NAFTA. These same areas powered then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 and helped him capture Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes, Baca says.
“Pennsylvania farmers produced $1.3 billion in exports to Mexico and Canada in 2016. Modernizing NAFTA will lead to continued growth and prosperity for farmers throughout Pennsylvania. Renegotiating NAFTA will put Pennsylvania farmers and families first,” says Martin “Marty” Yahner of Patton, Pa., a Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer.
“Maintaining and updating NAFTA is critically important, especially when you consider that 37% of all Pennsylvania agriculture products exported to foreign countries goes to Canada and Mexico,” adds Erick Coolidge of Wellsboro, Pa. “I encourage the Trump administration to continue working toward an agreement that protects Pennsylvania agriculture while modernizing the agreement to better fit America's ag economy.”
Some 10% of all U.S. farm land produces exports to Canada and Mexico. These exports have more than quadrupled under the trade agreement, now 25% of American exports. NAFTA has opened markets to America’s farmers, grown domestic jobs and supported $127 billion in annual economic activity. Lastly, under NAFTA, the U.S. food and agriculture industries support more than 43 million jobs throughout the nation.
The Congressional push
The day after President Trump’s State of the Union message, 36 U.S. Senators — all Republicans — sent a letter to the President outlining how the North American Free Trade Agreement needed to be modernized.
Their key message was: “Modernizing NAFTA to increase market access, expand energy exports to maximize domestic energy production and including provisions on intellectual property and e-commerce will make this agreement even more beneficial to the United States.”
Why no Democrats on the list? “Comes down to party politics,” responded Baca. Weren’t they asked? “Good question. I don’t know,” replied Baca.
Baca, senior vice president of client relations for Washington, D.C.-based DDC Public Affairs, knows party politics. He was national coalitions director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.