Farm groups welcome trade deal, still want tariffs to end

Farm groups are supporting President Trump's new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, but they said more needs to be done.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement as it's known, still faces a long path before it would take effect.

Congress must approve the deal, and Trump said he's "not at all confident" it will, worrying political concerns will get in the way.

The top Democrat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, Minnesota's Collin Peterson, said he's happy the deal is moving forward. Peterson said he's pleased with the "access and provisions" the deal appears to have secured.

If it takes effect, the trade agreement will replace the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

The executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association said the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico is a good step toward rebuilding farm exports to those nations. But the trade tariffs in place now between the nations are a more immediate concern.

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"Nothing will happen tomorrow for the benefit of Minnesota dairy farmers as a result of this agreement," said Lucas Sjostrom. "Unless the tariffs that have been placed between the countries in North America start getting repealed."

Canada and Mexico imposed tariffs on many key U.S. farm exports last spring in retaliation for new U.S. import tariffs.

Under the new agreement, U.S. farmers would have tariff-free access to about 3.5 percent of the Canadian dairy market.

U.S. pork exports should also benefit if the new deal is ratified. Mexico is the nation's top pork export market; Canada, No. 4. The National Pork Producers Council said the deal reached Sunday represents "welcome momentum" in a challenging year.

Pork prices have declined since the exchange of tariffs with Mexico and Canada began last spring, but rose four percent on news of the agreement.

For many farmers, the trade deal does little to alleviate their immediate economic concerns.

Milk prices have been in a years-long decline, and are still below break even for most producers.

"Things aren't quite rosy yet in dairy farms across Minnesota and the U.S.," Sjostrom said.