Dairy Coops Concerned by Potential Mexico Border Closing Hurting Trade

Shutting down access to the U.S.-Mexico border could impact a relationship between the largest buyer of dairy exports which has two dairy cooperatives concerned. ( Farm Journal )

Two dairy cooperatives are voicing their concerns over a potential shutdown on access to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

After President Trump and his administration proposed closing the U.S.-Mexico border, both Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative shared their opposition to the policy suggestion in separate press releases.

DFA president and CEO Rick Smith sent a letter to members of the House and Senate urging “immediate action to ensure the U.S.-Mexico border remains open to U.S. dairy exports.”

DFA members account for more than 25% of all U.S. dairy exports and Mexico plays a vital role in that trade portfolio.

“The dairy industry has worked together closely for more than two decades to grow and strengthen the market for U.S. dairy products in Mexico,” Smith said. “In the volatile dairy industry, strong dairy export markets are crucial for our farmer-owners, who have suffered years of financial stress on the farm. Mexico remains a key customer for our dairy farmer-owners, and we are asking Congress to work with the administration to keep our border open and quickly ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to ensure our robust trade partnership continues.”

Leadership at FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative – which has members Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana – was similarly opposed to closing the border to Mexico.

“Mexico is our largest export customer, and for the U.S. dairy industry, that accounts for $1.4 billion in product sales. Closing the border with Mexico will leave a devastating impact on dairy farmers across the U.S., a relationship that was painstakingly built over the past several years by industry orgs,” says Jeff Lyon, FarmFirst General Manager.

Both Smith and Lyon point to the current state of the agriculture economy, particularly the dairy market, as reason enough to not go forward with shutting down access to Mexico.

“We are in the worst rural economic recession since the 1980s,” Smith says. “Our farmer-owners need strong dairy markets, both at home and abroad to recover and continue providing wholesome dairy products for generations to come. The Mexican export market is critical to the longevity of our industry.”

“This trade relationship with Mexico has come to mean a lot for U.S. dairy farmers. For that trading opportunity to be lost would leave a devastating gap for the U.S. dairy industry. For dairy farmers struggling to manage through these very tough economic times, this may be their worst blow yet, even with the past four years of low milk prices,” Lyon adds. “In no way should U.S. dairy farmers be the bargaining piece for these immigration issues.”

Dairy trade orgs also believe that a move to shut down the southern border is counterintuitive to increasing trade for dairy. In a joint press release, Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, share that the move could create “economic havoc” for U.S. dairy farmers.

A record amount of dairy products were exported to Mexico from the U.S. in 2018 with 15.8% of milk production crossing the border. Mexico is currently the largest single buyer of U.S. dairy exports purchasing $1.4 billion worth of products.