Donald Trump eating pork chop on a stick at Iowa State Fair Getty Images/Win McNamee

Will 2018 be a trade ‘happy’ new year?

As we prepare to flip the calendar to 2018, what does the new year hold?

A year ago we were facing the new rules of the expanded veterinary feed directives, while we were also facing the changing of the guard with a Donald Trump presidency.

For the most part, hog producers were ready for the new VFD rules, and they adjusted for the most part without too many headaches. That was in most part due to the foresight of the swine industry that had spent the last few years preparing producers for the changes in the use of antibiotics in livestock. The key change to the new Food and Drug Administration rules was that medically important antibiotics could no longer be used for growth promotion. Today, human medically important antibiotics can only be used to treat sick animals or to prevent disease and/or control it.

Many producers and production systems took the new regulations as a cue to evaluate just how and why they use antibiotics in their hog production. Some learned that they had already been reducing the use of antibiotics, but would definitely keep that tool in their toolbox if treatment was necessary for a sick animal.

So, all appears to be good with the VFDs and hog producers.

What about that Trump presidency?

One thing we knew going into it was that no one really knew what to expect. A non-politician taking the highest office in the land had a lot of people on edge, especially when that person is one Donald J. Trump. He has always been one to speak his mind, and that has not changed. To some extent it may have even escalated, since more people are paying attention to his sound bites and Tweets.

A year ago we knew that the Trump administration would be taking a close look at all trade pacts, and with the exception of the United States actually pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there has yet to be resolution on trade deals. Following up on his campaign promise to pull out of TPP, U.S. traders continue to look for ways to tap into the Asian market, which would be a huge boon for U.S. pork.

Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement continues, and much has been said about the benefits that NAFTA has had for the United States, Canada and Mexico. It never hurts to renegotiate any trade deal, especially one that is 24-years-old. A lot has changed in the 24 years since NAFTA was first adopted, but it remains to be seen if it will survive these renegotiation talks, or what form it will take.

Some feel that the United States can get a better trade deal through pacts individually with Canada and Mexico, rather than in the current trade trifecta. We may find out sooner than later if NAFTA does indeed go away.

Regardless what happens with NAFTA, U.S. trade negotiators need to keep the pedal to the metal to keep the world buying American products, specifically U.S. pork. U.S. pork producers are creating a safe, delicious supply, and the amount of U.S. production that is exported continues to grow. We cannot afford to have a setback in the global consumption of U.S. pork.

Where will we be sitting a year from now? Will we still be looking for a way to replace what the TPP would have given us in the Asian market? Will we still be renegotiating NAFTA? Will we be living in a post-NAFTA world?

Every new year brings promise and anxiety. What will 2018 bring?

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