Montana wheat farmers say they’ve been given a “glimmer of hope” with an initial trade deal reached this week between the U.S. and local grain growers’ largest buyer: Japan.
The deal announced by the two countries Wednesday begins to mend pain felt by farmers and ranchers in the ongoing trade war.
Expected to take effect by the start of next year, the agreement lowers or removes tariffs on American goods like wheat, beef, pork, corn and more. This means U.S. producers will be able to sell to Japan on equal footing as other countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multi-national free trade agreement that replaced an agreement President Trump pulled out of in 2017.
“I think this is going to be an exceptional deal for Montana,” Lyle Benjamin, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association, says.
“The details that I have seen so far look like the agreement for wheat and barley look like what would have been in the CPTPP protocol, if we had still been in that,” Benjamin says.
He says most wheat farmers broke even or lost money last year. According to the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, state growers lost around $150 million this year because of the trade disputes.
President Donald Trump is working to strike new deals around the world over his concern of tens of billions of dollars in trade imbalances.
Montana wheat farmers didn’t support withdrawing from the original TPP trade deal. Benjamin says the trade partnership with Japan is a start but wants more deals with other countries, the same countries that are in the new TPP.
“It got all those agreements in place with one signature. Now we need to go get 11 or 12 signatures to achieve the same thing,” Benjamin says.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Farm Bureau and all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation are also calling the trade agreement a win for the state’s agriculture jobs.