Two Minnesota hog farmers will attend the signing of a new free-trade pact with Canada and Mexico at the White House on Wednesday.
Lori Stevermer and Terry Wolters, both board members for the National Pork Producers Council, planned to travel to Washington, D.C., to witness the signing of a deal they said brings stability to trade relationships with the two largest markets for U.S. pork.
“It provides some comfort,” said Stevermer, whose family raises 2,000 Duroc hogs near Easton, Minn., for Compart Family Farms. “We had tariffs from Mexico on our pork products, and while those tariffs are off now, having that agreement in place really allows us to move ahead with some certainty.”
Some 40% of U.S. pork exports go to Mexico and Canada, but in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, Canada and Mexico imposed a 20% tariff on U.S. pork for about a year, from mid-2018 to late spring 2019. Those tariffs were lifted after the U.S. lifted its tariffs in May.
The new deal, known by the acronym USMCA, preserves the tariff-free pork trade in North America. In that way, the pact is a clearer step forward then the recently announced trade agreement with China, which does not lift tariffs on U.S. pork and does not specify how much pork China will purchase from the U.S.
Farmers raised more than 21 million pigs for slaughter in Minnesota in 2018, generating $2.5 billion in revenue. Pork exports from the state were $717 million in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.
Pork prices have fallen 7% since the start of the year, but Wolters, who raises 28,000 hogs a year near Pipestone, Minn., said prices are good enough, considering the U.S. pork industry is slaughtering more than 470,000 hogs a day.
“Have we shot the moon?” he said. “No, but we have a very good market.”
The deal with Canada and Mexico brings “clarity” and “carries NAFTA to the next level,” Wolters said.
The deal will be signed around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the White House.