Ag Chat with Bob Bosold - April 16
Too ambitious. That's seems to be the prevailing attitude of those working on and observing the ongoing talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. negotiators have said they would like to announce an agreement as soon as this week. But after last week's high level negotiations in Washington, that doesn't look like it will happen. And the auto industry continues to be the main issue holding up an agreement. The Trump Administration has dropped its proposal to assure that 50% of the value of each vehicle made and sold in the 3 countries come from the United States. Our trade officials now say that a certain percentage of each vehicle be made by workers making approximately $16 to $17 an hour-wages not seen in Mexico. But that's not the only hang-up. The Trump Administration is also holding firm on rules for government purchases, methods for settling trade disputes and a provision that says the deal will expire after 5 years unless all 3 countries, the U.S., Mexico and Canada vote to re-approve it. The main issue to be resolved for agriculture is still Canada's supply management program and their new Class 7 which has disrupted markets around the world.
Wisconsin Republican U.S. senator Ron Johnson is in favor of President Trump taking the necessary steps to get the U.S. back into the Trans Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement-if he can negotiate more favorable terms for our re-entry. And China is a big reason why. With the U.S. out of the deal it gives China an opportunity to move in and take our place in a deal that equals 40% of world markets. Johnson said getting involved in the deal once again would give our manufacturing and agricultural products open access to one of the fastest growing areas in the world. Also telling us they favor the U.S. getting back into the deal are Third District Congressman Ron Kind and Seventh District Congressman Sean Duffy. A spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin said the senator didn't like TPP from the beginning and is still against the U.S. getting involved in the deal.
The state Building Commission has approved spending some money to renovate some facilities on the ag campuses at the UW-Madison and UW-River Falls. The Madison project involves renovation of both the Center for Dairy Research and the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. Those facilities haven't been updated since the 1950s. The Madison project is funded at about $47 million. At River Falls, the Commission approved a plan that will renovate and expand the Dairy Pilot Plant. That project is expected to cost around $4 million and should be completed in early 2019.
As dairy farmers continue to struggle with low prices, farmers and others continue to try and find ways to work out of the current crisis. And today in Barron County, the Farm Bureau and the Farmer's Union will co-host a meeting to try and find some answers. Today's meeting, starting at 12:30 at Barron Electric, will bring together farmers, lenders, processors and elected officials to discuss the current situation and try to come up with viable options for the future.