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U.S. farmers, agribusinesses and trade organizations are - and must continue to be - actively engaged in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. Grains Council (USGC) President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Sleight conveyed that call to action and offered a strong show of support for the long-standing partnership between U.S. and Mexican agriculture during recent remarks to the Mexican feed industry.
Sleight spoke on May 25 at the annual meeting of CONAFAB, the main trade association for the Mexican feed and grain industry. CONAFAB invited Sleight to speak during meetings at their offices in March with Sleight and USGC Chairman Chip Councell, a grain farmer from Maryland.
Those at the conference last week paid close attention not just to Sleight’s U.S. corn outlook, but how U.S. farmers and the U.S. feed grains industry are responding to discussions about NAFTA modernization. While normal feed grain business continues, the climate in Mexico continues to be in flux, with grain buyers turning more to spot market purchasing and not taking future positions. There is also more frequent talk about exploring moves to diversify suppliers if needed.
“Our Mexican customers have a real desire to keep operations business as usual,” Sleight said. “But there is this constant pressure, this constant worry that something may go awry. They know the supply is there, but they are worried about trade conflicts spilling over into adverse trade actions on U.S. grains because they rely on them. They have built their businesses on it.”
Sleight outlined the history of U.S. and Mexican feed industry cooperation in his speech, a history familiar to many in the room. Thanks to the favorable terms in NAFTA, increasingly integrated logistics and close geographic proximity, Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. corn. Mexico purchased 524.4 million bushels (13.3 million metric tons) worth $2.5 billion last marketing year, in addition to 23.86 million bushels (606,127 tons) of sorghum and 1.9 million tons of distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS).
Sleight also discussed the active role USGC is now playing in efforts to defend the legacy of this cooperation and push for rapid and respectful NAFTA negotiations. He specifically highlighted the recent Mexican grain industry team that traveled to the United States as well as this week’s barley team and next week’s USGC board of directors meeting to be held in Mexico.
“We have had a lot of impact in a very short time,” he said. “U.S. farmers and agribusinesses are advocating for Mexico, for NAFTA, and that voice is being heard.”
“USGC has been there for Mexico, we are there for Mexico and we will be there for Mexico in the future. We have a long-standing partnership with Mexico, and that is what we plan on defending and maintaining.”
Learn more about USGC's work in Mexico here.