FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, March 12, 2018
Contact:           Chuck Lippstreu, Byrum & Fisk Communications, 517-333-1606

Agriculture Leaders: Tariffs on steel and aluminum could harm ag export markets 
Newly-announced tariffs, NAFTA uncertainty create unnecessary headwinds for Michigan’s rural economy

LANSING, Mich. – The Agricultural Leaders of Michigan (ALM) today cautioned that new tariffs announced last week by the Trump administration on steel and aluminum, alongside uncertainty about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have created additional headwinds in an agricultural economy that’s already in a downturn.

“We can’t afford unforced errors on trade,” said Dave Armstrong, president and CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit Services. “Whether we’re talking about the steel tariffs recently announced, rhetoric directed against our trade partners, or threats to withdraw from NAFTA, none of that is good for business or good for rural economic prosperity.”

Mary Kelpinski, CEO of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, said the U.S. pork industry exported almost $6.5 billion worth of product last year – the second-highest total ever, representing 26 percent of U.S. pork production.

“Here in Michigan, 51 percent of our pork exports move across the border to Canada, and global exports are the fastest-growing aspect of our business,” she said.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), Michigan agricultural exports total nearly $3 billion annually and support nearly 20,000 Michigan jobs. 

“New tariffs against our trading partners risk retaliation that could hurt soybean farmers by cutting our market access,” said David Williams, president of the Michigan Soybean Association. “Soybean farmers have worked hard to establish relationships around the world for our products and a trade war would be very bad news.”

Williams said China is the top market for U.S. soybeans, buying more than all other U.S. customers combined and accounting for $14 billion in sales – more than a third of total U.S. soybean production.

“Trade remains one of the big issues on everyone’s mind in the dairy industry, because we export products like nonfat dry milk to markets around the world, accounting for nearly $249 million in dairy exports and boosting Michigan’s economy by nearly $500 million annually,” said Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association. “We’re worried that the rhetoric coming out of Washington is extremely anti-trade, and could result in worse circumstances for dairy farmers.”

“We produce more than we can consume in the U.S., so for agriculture to be successful we have to trade and we have to have export customers,” said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Other countries grow what we grow here, and they’re anxious to find new export opportunities. Michigan agriculture needs certainty to maintain our export markets and continue to sell products abroad.”

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Agricultural Leaders of Michigan is a coalition of agricultural, commodity and agribusiness leaders committed to promoting Michigan agriculture, participating in the ongoing dialogue about issues affecting our state, and harnessing agriculture’s power and potential to further grow Michigan’s economy. The coalition is made up of GreenStone Farm Credit Services; the Michigan Agri-Business Association; the Michigan Milk Producers Association; the Michigan Pork Producers Association; and the Michigan Soybean Association. Learn more at