Nobis is a dairy farmer in central Michigan, and right now he’s worried
about where South Koreans are going to get their cheese.
purchase a lot of cheese,” Nobis says. He’s not kidding: Korea is one of
the biggest markets for U.S. cheese in the world, buying a whopping 94 million pounds of
it last year alone. “And if they’re not purchasing that cheese, it goes
into storage in this country. You can’t turn dairy production on and
off with the flip of a switch. The cows, you got to milk ‘em 365 days of
Now, Nobis and other agricultural workers around
the state are keeping an anxious eye on President Trump, who campaigned
on tearing up trade deals he feels are bad for U.S.e workers, and is
reportedly preparing to pull out of a free trade agreement with South Korea as early as this week.
it’s directly from Michigan, or Arizona, or Wisconsin, it still has a
direct impact on our prices,” Nobis says. As the president of the
Michigan Milk Producers Association, he’s riding out a tough global
dairy market that’s been struggling the last few years. Europe is
flooding that market with more and more milk products, and the U.S. has
to compete with other dairy giants like Australia and New Zealand for
That could become much harder if the U.S. backs
out of its 2012 free trade deal with Korea. Without it, “U.S. cheese
exports to Korea would be subject to the pre-FTA tariff of 36%, while
all of our key competitors could keep shipping millions of pounds of
cheese duty-free,” the U.S. Dairy Export Council warns.
If farmers like Nobis can no longer sell to Korea, that’ll hit close to home.
can’t cut supply to match the fall of demand that would happen, if
Korea quit buying dairy products from this country,” he says. “It could
have an impact globally. Because we would in turn try to find another
customer, and the way you try to find another customer is you cut
prices. It’s very tenuous.”
Nobis and Michigan agricultural
leaders, including the Michigan Pork Producers and Agri-Business
Association, are hoping President Trump gets the message.
withdrawal from the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would have an
immediate and devastating impact on Michigan agriculture, dealing a
massive blow to a leading U.S. export market for pork, dairy and other
products,” they said in a statement. “In addition, a KORUS withdrawal
will set a dangerous precedent that calls into question other existing
free trade agreements that are critical for Michigan farmers and
agribusinesses at a time of low commodity prices. We strongly urge the
administration to reconsider this strategy, because a U.S. withdrawal
from KORUS will cost jobs throughout rural Michigan, plain and simple.”
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