Illinois Agriculture groups are starting to show concern about the Trump administration direction in trade policy.
During the campaign, Trump focused on manufacturing jobs. But, agriculture has been a big winner under NAFTA and other regional and global trade deals.
More than half of Illinois corn and soybeans go to Mexico and Canada. Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President David Erickson of Altona, Illinois said nervous Mexican firms are starting to look for suppliers in Brazil and Argentina.
"Certainly there have been some indications that is going on. I don't think we know yet to what extent," said Erickson.
Illinois commodities may still have some advantages, according to Erickson.
"I think what puts the U.S. in a good position to be a good trader is proximity and the fact that we are a reliable supplier," said Erickson.
He also noted trade connections in Mexico tend to operate as much on relationships as they do on price. This could be helpful in retaining the marketplace. But, once lost, that tendency makes it hard to get sales back.
Erickson said he is watchful, not pessimistic.
"Our quality on corn and soybeans is clearly world class. We just have to make sure we remain competitive as U.S. farmers in that world marketplace so we can continue to get the sales to Mexico that we have had in the past," said Erickson.
Taken together, all the South American countries produce more than the U.S. But, Erickson said the U.S. is the largest single producer of corn and soybeans by far.
Agriculture has been a beneficiary of NAFTA and other regional trade agreements. But, the Trump administration has focused on manufacturing jobs, which have not fared as well under those treaties.
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