Since the announcement that the U.S. had renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with its neighbors Mexico and Canada, dairy farmers across the nation have been voicing their support of the deal.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was made official on Oct. 1 after Canada finally agreed to terms of the deal that included access for U.S. dairy products into Canada and the discontinuation of the country’s Class 7 policy for dairy. Canadian dairy groups and farmers have been voicing their concerns with the updated version of NAFTA, but U.S. dairy producers have been elated with USMCA.
In Iowa, KCRG TV reports that dairy farmers Wayne Kramer and Elizabeth Elsinger both think the trade deal will give their milk prices a boost.
“It’s helped our milk futures just in the 14 hours that it's been discussed, so our milk futures have gone up not a lot, but significant enough for us all to notice,” Elsinger says.
Kramer shares that his milk is being sold for approximately $14 per cwt, but the trade deal might boost it by a half dollar.
“I think we'll see a 50 cent increase in our milk price down the road right off the bat once it’s in effect,” Kramer says.
Vermont dairy producer Alison Conant from Conant Farm, a 400 cow dairy near Richmond, is optimistic with the USMCA helping dairy prices.
“We’re hopeful that some of these developments will create more opportunities for us,” Conant says. “We’re all looking for as many solutions as we can find. There’s a certain degree of belt tightening with times like this. Everybody’s trying to work harder and manage their operations as tightly as they can.”
Officials from Vermont are also happy with the developments with Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, Gov. Phil Scott and Sen. Patrick Leahy all voicing support. However, Scott and Leahy would like to see the particulars of the deal before getting too excited.
“I want to see what the wording is,” Leahy says. “I’ve been a lawyer long enough that I actually want to see the papers.”
New York dairy farmer David Fisher, owner of Mapleview Dairy, a 3,000-cow farm near the Canadian border in St. Lawrence County, welcomes the news after dealing with low prices and plant closings.
Fisher says tariffs and other trade regulations have “really put a hurt on plant capacity in the Northeast and the ability to move product.”
Trade groups in Michigan expressed their pleasure with the deal.
“At a time when we've seen a steady decline in prices, hopefully, something good will come from this new market opportunity,” says John Kran, the Michigan Farm Bureau's national legislative counsel. “I don’t think it will bring the dairy industry to where it needs to be, but it moves it in the right direction.”
Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, thinks the change in Class 7 policy by Canada will help prevent dumping by the country and aid domestic prices.
“It had an effect on everybody, but especially us,” Nobis says. “It’ll have a positive impact on prices. How much of a positive remains to be seen.”
In Wisconsin, dairy farmers have seen the impacts of trade after Grassland Dairy cut contracts with farmers in the state sighting Canadian trade policy.
“This is definitely a sigh of relief that we can get Mexico and get Canada done. And now I guess we turn our sights to the next big thing,” says Brody Stapel, board president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
“We’ve been looking for some good news for quite some time in the trade department for agriculture. And this agreement appears to have some positive things in it,” says Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
However, the Wisconsin Farmers Union was less optimistic about the trade deal.
“The best estimate that we have now is that the additional sales that the U.S. will be able to send into Canada will equal less than 2 percent of total U.S. sales by value of dairy products,” says Kara O’Connor, government relations director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union.