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GROWERS COMMENT ON MEXICAN SENATOR'S PROPOSAL TO CHANGE U.S. CORN IMPORTS
Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette newspaper reports:

A Mexican senator who leads a congressional committee on foreign relations, Armando Rios Piter, earlier this week announced his intention to introduce a bill that would switch the country's main import of corn from the United States to Brazil and Argentina.

Such a policy change could have major effects on agribusiness in Iowa and the nation, experts agree.

Mexico is Iowa's second-leading country for corn exports, just behind Canada. And nationwide, American farmers in 2015 sent $2.4 billion of corn to Mexico, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That's why a potential loss of that market is a concern for farmers such as Bob Hemesath, who grows corn near Decorah and is chairman of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

"As a farmer, we don't ever want to see a loss of access to markets," Hemesath said.

Connection to worldwide markets is key to success in the agricultural trade, which serves a much different purpose than selling electronics or automobiles, said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Soybean Association director of market development.

"When you're talking food and feed trade, those are pretty essential items that usually you start some kind of trade war or imbalance. That's not just going to put a pinch on the seller, it'll put a pinch on the buyer," Kimberley said.

While some export specialists elsewhere across the country have speculated that a trade war is imminent, Iowa corn producers and other agriculture experts said they aren't worried just yet.

"Trade war hurts people on both sides," Kimberley said. "I don't think we're there yet. Over time, it'll get worked out."

Last month, Trump stated his intention to "tweak" the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico - downgraded from campaign statements that it was the "worst trade deal ever."

However, both Hemesath and Kimberley agreed a renegotiation of the agreement isn't necessarily a completely bad idea for Iowa's economy.

"With trade agreements that have been in place for a while, they probably need to updated to meet current market access demands for agricultural products," Hemesath said. "NAFTA needs to meet today's demands."

NAFTA, signed more than two decades ago, has been a huge boost for business and providing jobs, he said.

"NAFTA has been a tremendous trade agreement for Iowa agriculture," Hemesath said. "Before, we were hardly shipping any corn to Mexico."

According to CNN Money, in 1995 - the year after NAFTA became law - corn exports to Mexico were $391 million, in comparison to $2.4 billion in 2015.


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