Wisconsin dairy farmers hopeful ahead of trade deal, industry expert says more work to be done

Announcement of a trade deal agreement was great news to Wisconsin dairy farmers Tuesday, who have been hoping for revised trade with two of their top exporters in the world for years.

Mitch Breunig, who owns Mystic Valley Dairy, said he is hopeful this will help turn around downfalls the industry has had the last three years, where he’s seen other dairies closed due to changes in the international market.

“It’s kind of, I have a market, and thank goodness I have a market because some farmers haven’t been so lucky,” he said.

Breunig said years ago when Canada stopped taking ultra-filtered milk from the U.S. it was the final nail for many of his colleagues.

“It was really disappointing that sort of politics came into play and really affected family farms that had been in business for a long, long time,” he said.

Lots of support out of Wisconsin today for the agreement on USMCA (think NAFTA replacement). Earlier this year the state Assembly approved a res. saying the USMCA would expand opportunities for WI exporters. Here’s @SpeakerVos on the news today. #News3Now pic.twitter.com/TOHbaWp1yj

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) December 10, 2019

Wisconsin state and national lawmakers are hopeful the agreement will turn things around at home, too.

“USMCA is a win for Wisconsin, for our dairy and manufacturing industries, and for middle class families,” said Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, released some details about the agreement that he said he worked for, including the dairy program Breunig mentioned, as well as increased labor and environmental standards.

“Raising standards in trade agreements to level the playing field for workers, farmers, and businesses is vital so we are not trying to compete in a race to the bottom that will jeopardize jobs in America,” Kind said in a statement.

Mark Stephenson, the director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said this deal gets the U.S. dairy industry back about where it was in the original North American Free Trade Agreement, and it was the best the U.S. could get after fractured relationships from the original call for a renegotiation.

Since then, Mexico has had to look for other trade partners in the European Union, he said, and more work needs to be done to repair the relationship between the two countries.

Stephenson said that will come from good service from Wisconsin dairy farmers and producers.

Breunig said he knows there will be work to build trust back among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, but with an agreement in place he’s looking forward to what is hopefully a bright future.

“Anything we can do to have a higher milk price really makes a difference on our family’s farm and investing for the future and being able to stay in business,” he said.

The House is expected to vote on the deal as early as next week. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will take it up after the impeachment trial.

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