Adjusting NAFTA to Help Small Beef Producers

Brian German Cattle, Trade

The Trump administration is gearing up to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and the President of the National Farmers Union sent a letter urging the administration to amend the agreement to allow independent beef producers to better compete.

BeefAcknowledging the importance of NAFTA, NFU President Roger Johnson noted, “the agreement has contributed to increased consolidation in the beef industry and has pushed out small and mid-sized beef producers.”   As part of the request, Johnson insisted that reinstating Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) is essential to leveling the playing field for smaller, independent beef operations.

Since the implementation of NAFTA, multinational meatpacking companies have had the capacity to seek out the lowest costs of production which often means that cattle are raised in Canada and Mexico and then sold in the United States.

Overall beef exports saw a significant increase because of the provisions within NAFTA, however the agreement also compounded the deficit between the United States and its trade partners. “From 1993 to 2015, the total U.S. beef trade deficit with Canada and Mexico increased by 131%, from almost $1.2 billion to over $2.7 billion,” Johnson stated.

Johnson also noted that the current version of NAFTA has, “robbed American producers of the opportunity to proudly stand behind their product and denied consumers the right to know where their food comes from.”