How further trade talks could affect Missouri farmers

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COLUMBIA - During a town hall meeting earlier this week, Senator Claire McCaskill expressed concern for the future of Missouri farmers after the United States left the Trans-Pacific Partnership earlier this year.

Farmers in Missouri see the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, as a missed opportunity. Entering into the trade agreement would have brought more than four billion dollars in additional revenue to the U.S. agriculture industry, according to Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau Board of Directors President.

The deal also would have increased access for meat and dairy.

Hurst says this would have increased demand for Missouri corn and soybeans, the state's top exports.

"We had an opportunity, and it's gone now. So that is a concern," said Hurst.

Still, he holds hope the agriculture industry can continue to grow through other agreements and trade acts.

"It may be possible to recreate this agreement with some of the bi-lateral agreements the president has talked about, but it is still a concern," said Hurst.

Hurst added the additional income for Missouri farmers could have been a stimulant for the state's economy overall. "We're consumers, we're just like everybody else in mid-Missouri. Grocery stores, movie theaters, all of the places where we might spend income were harmed by this loss of this opportunity."

Shane Kinne, Director of Public Policy at the Missouri Corn Association agrees, and thinks the impacts go beyond just farmers. He said consumers would have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the TPP.

"When you have free movement of products from one country to another, we think we see the consumer win every time," said Kinne.

Those who support President Trump's decision to leave the TPP say staying in the pact would have led to more U.S. companies moving jobs out of the country, but Hurst says this comes at a time when farmers in the U.S. are hurting.

He claims farm incomes have decreased for four consecutive years- something that hasn't happened since the great depression.

"It was a time when we really needed a boost," he said.

Still, Hurst hopes with the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Act, Missouri Farmers can see a boost in the near future.