DES MOINES, Iowa -- One of the cornerstones of the Trump administration's campaign was the building of a Mexican border wall. Recently, President Trump suggested it would be paid for by a 20% tariff on Mexican imports.
Mexican senator Armando Rios Piter has introduced a bill in retaliation that would ban the country from importing American corn.
Mexico is the top consumer of U.S. corn.
In 2016, Mexico imported 13.3 million metric tons of corn from the United States, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association is carefully watching the bill.
“It’s a cause for alarm, and certainly hope those that are involved, including the Trump administration, will step back and reevaluate what these trade agreements really mean for the U.S., including what it means for Iowa farmers,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association Chief Operating Officer Brian Jones.
Jones says the timing couldn't be worse for this bill. After posting record farm incomes in 2013/14, the Iowa farm economy has been on a downward spiral.
“Net farm income has decreased by, like, half since that time, so it's devastating for farmers right now on the farm given the markets we already have," he said. "So if this market disappears, it could be devastating in the short term."
In a conference call on Tuesday morning, Senator Chuck Grassley said he was discussing the situation with National Trade Adviser Peter Navarro.
“You gotta be pretty cautious of these renegotiations of trade pacts, that we don’t get retaliation against agriculture. Because agriculture is maybe the only one of the three categories--manufacturing, agriculture, and services--agriculture is the only one where we have a surplus,” said Grassley.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association says one in every five jobs in Iowa is related to agriculture, and worries about the effect losing the biggest U.S. corn market would have on the rest of the state’s economy.
“I just heard today that machinery dealerships are consolidating and closing stores. It’s all part of that downturn that we’re in that we really need more demand,” said Jones.
Mexico has said they would import corn from Brazil and Argentina to make up for the loss of U.S. corn.
Earlier in February, several Iowa agriculture organizations sent a letter to President Trump advising him of the merits of NAFTA and its impact on Iowa farmers.