International trade agreements are good news for WI dairy farmers

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 4:59 PM CST
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The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a new North American trade pact that rewrites the rules with Canada and Mexico. Known as the USMCA trade deal, It would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

The passage of USMCA comes as good news for Wisconsin dairy farmers.

It's no secret the dairy industry in Wisconsin and across the country has been struggling.

According to Jamie Mara from Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, "Dairy farmers haven't had a lot to cheer about lately. We've had a couple, several years now of low milk prices and other commodity issues, and we've just come off a horribly wet, fall harvest."

But now that the U.S. has come to a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico things are looking up for local dairy farmers. Mara adds, "This has been a critically important agreement between these three countries. It allows any number of industries to do business across these borders tariff-free -- anything from automobiles to dairy products."

Mexico is the number one importer of American dairy products, taking in 40% of what the U.S. exports. Canada is number three on the list.

Together, those two countries account for a little more than $2 billion worth of American dairy exports each year.

At farms like Shiloh Dairy in Calumet County, the passage of the USMCA will help to bring long-term certainty and stability.

"The opportunity to move product, price increases, the ability to create the demand for what our supply is creating each and every day is huge," says Travis Speirs from Shiloh Dairy.

The USMCA news comes as phase one of a trade agreement with China is signed, allowing the United States to sell dairy products in that country.

"It's an exploding market, population is growing. They have a demand for the types of products we have, the proteins we have in milk and cheese and milk powder and things like that," says Jamie Mara.

It's all encouraging news for dairy farmers who are looking forward to the new possibilities.