Produce tariff hurts border - Brownsville Herald: Letters To The Editor

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Produce tariff hurts border

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Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2019 10:51 pm

Editor:

Whatever its shortcomings, one thing is clear about the North American Free Trade Agreement: It has been an unquestionable success for farmers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

NAFTA has been a boon for states like Texas, California and Arizona, where tens of thousands of jobs are directly linked to selling, distributing, warehousing and transporting Mexican produce throughout the country. It has served as an even bigger job creator for corn growers in Iowa and Nebraska, pork producers in Minnesota and South Dakota, wheat farmers in North Dakota and Kansas, apple and pear growers in Washington and soybean farmers in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas and, again, Iowa and Nebraska.

American farmers have succeeded largely because of the quality of American grains and fruit. Likewise, produce from Mexico, which has much better growing conditions for products such as tomatoes and peppers, has been embraced just as readily by U.S. retailers and consumers as American corn and wheat has by Mexicans.

Recently, however, crossborder trade in agriculture has been put at needless risk by an issue that could turn a win-win situation into a trade war threatening farmers on both sides of the border. At the urging of a small group of tomato growers from Florida the U.S. Commerce Department has preliminarily withdrawn from a 22-year-old Tomato Suspension Agreement that has permitted imports of Mexico’s superior vine-ripe tomatoes while maintaining a minimum U.S. price for that produce. That agreement has worked well and was updated only six years ago. It has also averted a trade war over a longstanding U.S.-Mexico trade issue.

The increased protection Florida is pursuing would involve placing high duties on Mexican produce, leading to increased prices, less variety for U.S. consumers, and a distribution monopoly for a few Florida growers, who ironically buy and repack Mexican tomatoes themselves. What’s worse, this move threatens the USMCA, the successor agreement to NAFTA, which is facing ratification problems in all three NAFTA countries. More ominously, it invites retaliation from Mexico against successful U.S. agricultural exports such as corn, wheat, soybeans, pears, apples and pork. In other words, a few companies in Florida will, if successful, turn a “win-win” in trilateral trade into a total loss.

NAFTA has been a compelling success story for U.S. agricultural producers. U.S. exports of agricultural products to Mexico totaled $19 billion in 2017, making it our third largest agricultural export market. Leading domestic exports include corn ($2.7 billion), soybeans ($1.6 billion), pork and pork products ($1.5 billion), dairy products ($1.3 billion), and beef & beef products ($979 million). Iowa’s No. 1 export market is Canada, and No. 2 is Mexico. Mexico is Kansas’ No. 1 export market; it is No. 2 for Ohio; No. 2 for South Dakota; No. 2 for Minnesota and so on.

U.S. agricultural interests spoke with one voice during the USMCA negotiations, telling the Trump administration to first and foremost do no harm to their NAFTA exports and emphasizing the importance of the Mexican and Canadian markets. It is not difficult to figure out what will happen if the United States tries to turn the flow of agricultural products into a one-way street.

Mexico’s produce industry supports almost 1.5 million jobs, directly and indirectly. In a letter hand delivered to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on March 15, Mexico’s Minister of Economy Graciela Márquez warned of the impact the loss of those jobs could have on pressing bilateral trade issues.

“Given the importance of reciprocal trade between our countries and the future implementation of the USMCA. the termination of the Tomato Suspension Agreement would not only be unfortunate but harmful,” she wrote. “(Almost) 400,000 agricultural (workers) and one million additional jobs in related industries in Mexico would be at risk. These jobs are as important to Mexico as the export jobs in the corn, pork, wheat, apples, beef, and soybeans industries, among many others, are to the United States.”

It is clear that Mexico will not sit by while a small group of Florida farmers tries to eliminate their Mexican competition. Retaliation against U.S. agriculture is likely, and that does not benefit anybody.

Britton Clarke

President

Border Trade Alliance

Washington, D.C.

President asks for repentance

Editor:

In commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday last month, frequent references were made to his Emancipation Proclamation. Much less known are his proclamation calling the nation to prayer.

Following is the complete text of a typical official publication issued by the president more than 100 years ago: “Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, as their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the National will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no loess than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this 30th day of March, A.D. 1863, and of the independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President, Abraham Lincoln.

Reyes J. Rodriguez

Brownsville

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