By Eric Bohl
Throughout November, Missouri Farm Bureau highlighted international trade’s impact on Missouri’s economy. A six-part video series entitled “Paid by Trade” brought to life the everyday Missourians whose daily lives are affected by trade.
While shooting this series, we met some incredible people in widely-differing jobs. Each one told us about the integral role trade plays in his or her job.
Clarissa Cauthorn is a seed salesperson for Beck Hybrids based in Audrain County. She told us, “If we don’t have trade, farmers don’t have money. If farmers don’t have the capability to purchase a product, I’m out of a job. I’ll have to find a new job in a different industry.”
Others shared similar feelings. Eric Woodward manages a John Deere dealership in Marshall named Ag-Power, Inc. He said that fluctuations in trade have had a big impact on the local economy, beyond even tractor sales. According to Eric, if trade markets took a turn for the worse, “we would see customers shutting down all their purchasing decisions. That’s going to have a massive ripple effect … it’s going to affect the grocery stores, the clothing companies, anybody that’s in a retail business. Those folks are holding up their decisions for a reason, and that’s because they don’t know where this is going.”
We caught up with Steven Douglas, a tugboat captain and pilot on the Missouri River, as he was cruising past Boonville and McBaine. He told us how past trade disruptions affected his industry. “In the early ‘80s after the Carter grain embargo, a lot of boats were idled,” he said. “A lot of people had to go do lesser jobs and go to factories and go to truck drive and leave the industry…when I started on the river (in 1989), all those stories were still fresh in everybody’s mind. A lot of boats stayed idled for years.”
The downstream impacts of trade are broad. Missouri exports $4 billion of agriculture products annually, supporting over 32,400 jobs in our state. Trade remains one of our economy’s best growth opportunities as well. Our farmers have the capacity to serve the rising middle class in nations like China and India, plus begin to reach growing markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Trade is not just important to Missouri; it is crucial to our entire nation. President Trump recently announced a preliminary agriculturally-focused trade agreement with China that could be a boon for American farmers. He also is expected to deliver a massive new free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada to Congress for consideration in the coming weeks. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, or USMCA, would modernize the countries’ prior trade agreements. It would also further open markets for American products to Mexico and Canada.
A final vote may not occur until after the new year, and the ongoing saga of impeachment could derail even the best-laid plans. However, Missouri’s Congressional delegation has expressed almost unanimous support for USMCA. Once the vote is called, we anticipate our elected representatives will stand with the tens of thousands of Missourians who are Paid by Trade.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Mo., is Director of Public Affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.
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