Given the unique experience GFN board member Terry Wanzek recently had with visiting White House officials to discuss current trade issues, it makes sense to expand as much as possible on his thoughts, which reflect many other US farmers and ranchers. (See his column from June 28, 2018 and The Jamestown Sun from June 16, 2018 – Wanzek meets with White House officials on trade.) Any feedback or thoughts you’d like to make? Please feel free to share in the comments.
Question: The dictionary defines trade as both a “noun” and a “verb” – both definitions describe the action of selling goods and services. How important is trade – and the ability to access markets – to your farm?
Answer: Extremely important. Most every crop we grow depends on exports in their respective markets. Pinto beans that we grow, for instance, have anywhere from 30% to 60% exported some years. Take hard red spring wheat also, roughly 50% of our production depends on export customers. While domestic consumption is important, we produce more than is needed for our own use. We are efficient producers and the world can benefit by our competitively priced production as well as our own country. We are efficient, productive and competitive producers of food in the USA. We benefit by having access to world markets as well as the world benefits from the availability of relatively cheap food and fiber. Openly free and fair trade allows resources to flow to the most efficient use where it makes the most sense to produce.
Question: When talking about trade, emphasis is often placed on the ability to sell products and services (exports). Trade also covers what we buy. How important is the ability to purchase goods and services for your farm (imports)? For example, what are some items that you purchase that are necessary for your farming operation to be profitable?
Answer: As I stated in the previous question, free and fair trade allows natural resources to be utilized in the most efficient manner where it makes the most sense to produce. When it works in a perfect environment, you are getting the best bang for the buck. Take steel for instance, we depend heavily on new high-tech farm equipment to operate. When we see tariffs or any other trade distorting measures on steel, we increase the cost of this equipment. We pay more for our farm equipment than we would otherwise without trade impediments.
Question: In your opinion, how important is NAFTA to your farm? To North Dakota? To the United States?
Answer: Again, NAFTA is extremely important. As I stated in earlier, our exports of edible beans, mainly our Pinto bean market is dependent on export sales for 30% to 60% of our production in some years. We seem to do best with our pinto production when Mexico is in the market buying pinto beans. Also, as a spring wheat producer and corn producer we depend heavily on the Mexican market. For all of the US wheat producers Mexico is one of our top wheat markets. The Mexican wheat market is crucial to all US Wheat producers.
Question: What type of infrastructure is needed to efficiently move products in and out of your farming operation?
Answer: Probably the most important infrastructure is our market to market road system. The first few miles of travel for most any commodity produced in the USA is on a township or county road. These road arteries, for most any commodity that we farmers produce, are crucial to effectively and efficiently getting grain to the larger grain terminals that are on a railway or water or seaway. While all these larger obvious infrastructure needs are important, we tend to overlook the more remote transportation infrastructure needs, not realizing how important they are in costs of production and helping our farmers be competitive in a global market.
Question: In one or two sentences, what message do you want to send trade negotiators regarding the importance and impact on your farm and community?
Answer: I want them to simply realize that trade is a significant part of our economic sustainability in rural America. At least 30% or more of our customers are currently outside of the USA. How many businesses do you know that could take a hit on losing 30% of their customer base. We are some of the most productive, efficient and competitive producers in the world. We need access to the world market. We need fair and reasonable and as free as possible trade. We can compete in a true free market environment!