NAFTA establishes agreements between the three participating nations, affecting tariffs on exports and imports of items from lumber and animal feed to beef and corn — the industry exports more products to Mexico than any other nation.

Missouri agriculture depends on overseas exports for the amount of food producers grow or raise each year — to the tune of $3.6 billion for food and agriculture products. Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) supported bills at the state levels aimed at retaining and strengthening the agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Missouri lawmakers Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) and Rep. Sonya Anderson (R-Springfield) have each sponsored resolutions to bolster NAFTA. Discussions are ongoing regarding the agreement made official in 1994, and Hegeman, Anderson and representatives of Americans for Farmers and Families – Missouri — a coalition of growers, producers, suppliers and other individuals working to retain and strengthen NAFTA — are working to preserve that agreement, arguing that it is crucial to maintaining productivity and low prices in Northeast Missouri and other parts of the state. President Donald Trump has stated he will review the existing agreement, and previous discussions have indicated that he will review trade agreements nation by nation, said Marion County farmer and Marion County Farm Bureau Vice President Ralph Griesbaum.

He agreed that a trade agreement was important for keeping prices from becoming “volatile,” but he pointed out that Trump will be looking at agreements on a “country-by-country” basis.

“Without a firm trade agreement, prices are a little more volatile right now, until we get something nailed down,” he said.

NAFTA establishes agreements between the three participating nations, affecting tariffs on exports and imports of items from lumber and animal feed to beef and corn — the industry exports more products to Mexico than any other nation. According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri ranks third in the nation in beef production and tenth in corn production. Soybeans substantially lead Missouri’s export products — at $1.1 billion in 2015, followed by feeds and fodder at $386 million and corn at $331 million.

Hegeman’s Senate Concurrent Resolution 39 seeks to strengthen and preserve the existing agreement. Anderson’s companion bill for the House of Representatives has a similar goal. Hegeman described international exports as “drastically important” for Missouri producers, and Anderson echoed the sentiment that prices would ultimately go up for consumers if NAFTA were not preserved.

Scott Hays, a Monroe County pork farmer, said that Mexico’s consumption of U.S. hams helps keep the prices for ribs and bacon lower. He said without that market agreement, he estimated he would need to cut back pork production by about five percent. Ultimately, he said prices for bacon could reach $10 to $12 in that type of scenario.

Executive Director of the Missouri Dairy Association Dave Drennan said removing NAFTA agreements with Canada and Mexico “would be a great blow” to an industry that counts Mexico as its top export market, followed by Canada.

But Griesbaum said that regardless of how a trade agreement is formed, it typically takes around 18 months to fully witness how it affects markets. And he said he felt confident that Trump would work with fellow administrative members to work out a deal that would keep producers and consumers from dealing with volatile price levels.

“The President didn’t get where he’s at by making bad deals,” he said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com