USA Rice joined several commodity groups in visits earlier this week to the Senate Agriculture and Finance Committees to emphasize the importance of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the economic health of rice producers and millers, and U.S. agriculture overall. “President Trump has made renegotiation of NAFTA a key goal, but we can’t forget that NAFTA is the single largest factor behind the critical importance of the Canadian and Mexican markets to rice and many other U.S. agriculture exports,” said Bob Cummings, USA Rice COO. “Improving trade agreements is good, but we must preserve what works and has delivered results for close to two decades.” Mr. Cummings concluded, “We’ll continue our outreach to the Hill and launch an education effort with the new administration’s officials. One important message will be the job creation of U.S. rice farmers and millers, and the importance of exports to maximizing the economic benefits of rice to the U.S. economy.”
Because of NAFTA, Mexico is the number one market for U.S. rice exports. Today, annual sales of U.S. rice consistently average just over 800,000 MT versus less than 300,000 MT before NAFTA, and exports to Mexico account for just over one-fifth of all U.S. rice sales abroad. U.S. exporters are facing increased competition in this market from suppliers in South America and, recently, Viet Nam. It’s critical to the ongoing competitiveness and commercial success of U.S rice that the duty-free benefits of NAFTA continue.