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Perdue: Mexico Won't Drop U.S. as Food Supplier
USAgNet - 08/01/2017

The United States offers too many advantages as a food and ag supplier for Mexico to look elsewhere, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Friday, likening the U.S. position to "a corner store location...we will take advantage of that."

According to Agriculture.com, during a teleconference near the end of two days of meeting with Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada Rovirosa, Perdue said he did not get any indication Mexico was seriously considering a shift to Argentina, Brazil, or other ag exporting nations for corn and other farm imports.

Mexico is the No 3 market for U.S. farm exports, forecast to buy $18.5 billion of the goods this year. It is a top customer for U.S. corn, soybeans, pork, and dairy. One of every $7 in U.S. exports sales comes from Mexico.

U.S. corn sales to Mexico are down by 7% this year and are likely to erode further, said the U.S. Grains Council, a trade group at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday. An array of farm and trade groups said customers are hedging their bets about access to U.S. farm exports and looking for alternative suppliers.

The first round of negotiations for the "new NAFTA" are set for August 16 to 20 in Washington.

Perdue said he and Calzada discussed the issue of agricultural labor, adding that other parts of the Trump administration hold the lead position on immigration policy. "We are working on a new program that will provide a legal guest worker program," said Perdue. U.S. farm groups say the H-2A guest worker program needs reform. They also argue that undocumented farm workers should be given legal status. Up to 70% of farm workers are believed to be undocumented.

U.S. fruit and vegetable growers complain they are losing sales to a flood of lower-priced produce from Mexico - unfairly subsidized by the government, they say. Perdue said not all sectors of U.S. agriculture benefited equally from NAFTA and the goal in upcoming negotiations is to maintain beneficial aspects of NAFTA and remedy its shortcomings.

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