Wisconsin farm groups say Trump administration trade deal won't affect profits

MADISON — Wisconsin agriculture organizations are applauding President Donald Trump's signing of a revised North American trade pact with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, but agricultural industry members said they don't expect it to have an impact on prices.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President Jim Holte told Wisconsin Public Radio that the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement won't be transformative.

"While it's a positive move, it certainly isn't the big change we're going to need for dairy farmers across Wisconsin and across this country to return to a more profitable level," said Holte.

The agreement will create "a return to the status quo," said John Holevoet, the government affairs director for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.

"When the initial agreement was announced, there was some slight reaction in the market for milk price," he said. "Since then, that small gain has been eroded away again in the intervening time period."

Dairy groups said the deal does include protections for the export of some Wisconsin cheeses. Mexico has agreed not to restrict the use of cheese names to certain geographic areas, similar to France's right to the term "champagne."

Holevoet said Mexico buys a majority of Wisconsin's cheese exports, so the name protections are a "hidden gem" of the trade agreement.

"That's a big victory for us and frankly, one that hasn't really gotten that much attention but probably actually has a bigger impact overall on the dairy export side of things than anything we can do with the Canadians," Holevoet said.

Congress will likely consider the deal in late winter or early spring, Holevoet said. Lawmakers from all three countries must approve the agreement before it can take effect.