Wisconsin farmers wondering what’s next after TPP withdrawal


In a good year, quite a bit of the milk produced by cows on Richard Gorder’s Iowa County farm will go beyond our borders.

“When prices are going good, we’re up around 15-16 percent of our total production being shipped overseas,” Gorder said.

Gorder said he, like other members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, hoped that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would go through.

“We look at trade as prosperity,” Gorder said. “When we trade, we know that we’re in a growing kind of environment. We can’t begin to consume all the products that we raise in that country. So for that matter, we truly want to be able to trade.”

The farm bureau had advocated for the 12-nation trade deal in hopes that it would boost exports of Wisconsin agriculture to Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan and other fast-growing markets that import products from Wisconsin farmers.

But Republican Donald Trump had made opposing the TPP a central focus of his campaign. He made good on his promise this week, signing an executive order to withdraw from the trade pact.

Now farmers like Gorder wonder what will come next.

“While we understood that it probably wasn’t going to pass, we were hoping for some elements of it that would carry forward and (Trump would) not simply withdraw in its entirety,” Gorder said.

University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural & applied economics professor Paul Mitchell said without the TPP, the United States will have to negotiate individual trade deals with the countries involved, a process that could take a great deal of time.

“The TPP would have been organized where everybody would have had the same even playing ground between all the partners,” Mitchell said. “It takes more time for the U.S. and all of our trade negotiators and we might end up with different deals between the different nations.”

Mitchell said agricultural exports are especially needed right now for Wisconsin corn and soybean farmers, who are struggling with declining farm income, prices and land value.

“There is a lot of financial stress, they’re, so far, dealing with it,” Mitchell said. “(But) we could see a crisis in a couple of years.”

Gorder said he, like other farmers, are left to wait for the Trump administration’s next move on trade.

“We’re looking for a new message from the Trump administration,” Gorder said.

While many agricultural organizations supported the TPP, labor groups did not support the deal, saying it would be bad for workers both at home and abroad.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also opposed the trade deal during her campaign.