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More Voices Sought in Farm, Immigration Debate

Rural farmers want their voices heard about immigration and changes to trade policies. (
Rural farmers want their voices heard about immigration and changes to trade policies. (
February 6, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Agriculture and trade groups are voicing their concerns over President Donald Trump's stance on immigration and his threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump's calls to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and possibly institute a tax on Mexican imports have led to political strains between the two countries.

The president also has said he will either renegotiate NAFTA to benefit Americans or withdraw from it altogether.

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of trade and global governance at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), says instead of pitting people in one country against another, NAFTA should be replaced so that it benefits all. She says rural farmers have been struggling to make a living under the current agreement.

"So much of the focus has been on producing as much as possible and depending on export market, and in the process, both because of provisions on tariffs and changes in investment rules, farmers have lost bargaining power," she states.

Hansen-Kuhn says the Trump administration needs to take public comment and check with farmers and rural communities before making changes to NAFTA.

Hansen-Kuhn says Trump's plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. is outrageous, shortsighted and beneath the U.S. as a nation. She says America’s farm economy cannot function without those workers.

"Besides the fact that it's a wrong headed proposal, I think it makes it pretty hard for the Mexican government to take any negotiations with the Trump administration because people there are understandably upset," she stresses.

The IATP is calling for the elimination of investor/state dispute settlements, a restoration of country-of-origin labeling so consumers know where the meat they're buying comes from, and more laws regulating the dumping of fruits and vegetables. The group also wants local governments to be able to take action to defend farmers.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN