This week, the agriculture sector was hit with some tough news regarding our export markets. Mexico, Canada and the European Union all announced tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods, ranging from dairy to pork to peanut butter. For the dairy industry, the threats from Mexico are especially worrisome since that country is our top foreign customer, purchasing as much as 25 percent of America’s dairy exports.
Beth Ford, Chief Operating Officer for Land O'Lakes Businesses spoke up for the U.S. dairy sector in the press this week, and she also joined some of our member-owners on a trip to Washington, D.C., where she carried the same message as the group visited the offices of key lawmakers. Here is a look at what Beth shared:
The Hill: The last thing America's dairy farmers need is a trade war with Mexico
Beth writes, "Our dairy farmers are already squeezed between the cost of feed and other farm inputs and stubbornly low global milk prices. Mexico purchases 25 percent of U.S. dairy exports, and it’s a market that we can’t afford to lose...Despite changes in consumer preferences, increasing pressure from Mother Nature, and less than ideal market circumstances, dairy farmers don’t give up. This National Dairy Month, please don’t give up on them."
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota firms brace for retaliation as potential trade war looms
Other Minnesota industries and businesses worry that the metal tariffs will hurt by increasing material costs or by sweeping in other economic sectors through retaliation.
"We remain concerned about any retaliatory efforts advanced by our trading partners in light of this recent tariff announcement by the administration," Beth Ford, chief operating officer of Land O’Lakes Businesses said in a statement to the Star Tribune."Additionally, Mexico is the number one export market for U.S. dairy exports. Every dollar of dairy exports to Mexico supports an additional $2.50 elsewhere in the local economy."
Wall Street Journal: Mexico and Canada Add to Nations Striking Fear in U.S. Farmers
Beth Ford, chief operating officer for Land O'Lakes Businesses, a top cheese producer, said the company is "especially concerned about any deterioration in a market where farmers are already suffering from low global prices." U.S. dairy producers, for instance, have been counting on exports to help the struggling sector move past a multiyear milk glut. Mexico, which doesn't produce enough cheese to meet growing domestic demand, is a big customer, buying nearly one-third of all U.S. cheese sold abroad, according to agricultural consultancy Informa Economics.
Beth Ford and four of Land O'Lakes' member-owners also attended the National Milk Producer's Federation Young Cooperator Fly-in this week. Doug and Ginger Post, Alex Ode and David Pyle visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday, meeting with key Members of Congress.
“Being able to meet with our elected officials and members of their staff was inspirational; key topics arose the week before the Hill visits and were fresh on many of our minds,” commented Alex Ode, dairy producer from Brandon, South Dakota. “The Farm Bill, Immigration, NAFTA, and the Dairy Pride Act were the key topics spoken about and expressed during our visits. The issues are major players in the agriculture industry, and being able to have a voice and advocate for dairy farmers and my fellow cooperative members was an outstanding experience to be a part of.”
The timing of the fly-in provided an optimal opportunity for Land O'Lakes to engage with lawmakers on trade, farm bill, immigration and related dairy issues, since these are all top of mind in Washington this week. Besides the trade actions taking place, the Senate has announced it will mark up its version of the Farm Bill next Wednesday, and our members were able to speak to lawmakers about how dairy policies affect our operations and underscore the need to get a farm bill passed to create certainty for their businesses.