Editor's Note: America's farmers are among the world's most productive. America has more arable land than any other country in the world. The resulting surplus of crops means America's farmers need world markets. This month Kansas Farmer begins a series of stories that looks at trade agreements, how they are negotiated, how they are enforced and why they benefit U.S. growers.
Just about anywhere you turn across the grain belt of America, there are piles and piles of grain on the ground as bumper harvests, low prices and slow markets have created a huge surplus of U.S. grains.
As the Kansas hard red winter wheat crop broke dormancy in mid-February — the second year in a row for an extremely early start to the growing season — many farmers, co-ops and terminal elevators still had some of the 2015 crop in storage and much of the 2016 crop in bins or bunkers. As daytime temperatures climb into the 70s and 80s, concern about falling quality mounts.
Elevators are still full of corn and soybeans from last year as farmers head into farm shops to prepare machinery for planting the 2017 crop.
If ever there was a time when farmers would welcome new trade agreements, this year is it. What they have gotten, however, is an executive order backing the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have given the U.S. a free-trade agreement with the countries of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Negotiating individual agreements with each of those countries will take time — possibly most of the current presidential term.
In addition, President Donald Trump has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with a preference to bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico, rather than an agreement with all three North American countries included.
Currently, the U.S. has free-trade agreements with 20 countries, including half of those that are also part of TPP. Those bilateral agreements remain in place, even without TPP.