Penning PIgs: Importance of Trade Can't Be Overstated

The U.S. pork industry has exported nearly 27% of its production to date this year. Imagine what prices would be now if the industry had been forced to find a home for that product within U.S. borders – it’s not a pretty picture.

Export growth has been fueled by trade agreements that provide favorable environments for all parties. According to the National Pork Producers Council, “U.S. exports of pork and pork products have increased by 1,550% in value and almost 1,300% in volume since 1989, when the U.S. implemented its first FTA.”

Update, Yes; Eliminate, No
There’s no question that trade agreements need to be updated from time to time. However, there’s a way of going about the process that doesn’t alienate the respective parties. Threatening to withdraw from long-standing agreements puts relationships in jeopardy and compromises trust – a situation the pork industry can’t withstand.

For example, Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University economist, says if the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement (KORUS) were terminated, live hog prices would fall by 3.8%, or $4.71 per animal.

“NPPC continues to fight for the preservation of zero-tariff treatment in what is U.S. pork’s fifth largest export market,” the organization said.

Good Representation
Fortunately, there are good people representing the U.S. at the negotiation table. They understand the importance of trade to agriculture in this country. At a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week, Gregg Doud, nominee to serve as chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, emphasized the critical importance of NAFTA, KORUS and other free trade agreements for U.S. agriculture, reported NPPC in its Capital Letter. “During the hearing, Doud said, ‘It's hard to overstate the importance of NAFTA’ and called KORUS ‘critically important,’” NPPC wrote. He added that the United States will “not go backwards” on export opportunities for the agriculture industry.

That’s good news for U.S. pork producers.