Delmarva farm officials favor NAFTA 'Win-win situation' seen for Delmarva

August 28, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

The agriculture secretaries of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia jointly announced their support for the North American Free Trade Agreement yesterday, saying the potential for an expanded Mexican market was good news for the farmers of the region.

"This is a win-win situation for Delmarva," said Robert L. Walker, Maryland's secretary of agriculture.

He said NAFTA represented the opportunity for a much broader market for American produce and would likely result in increased production for farmers in the three-state region.

If approved, NAFTA would create the world's largest free-trade zone, stretching from Canada to Mexico, and encompassing 370 million people.

In their joint statement, the three state officials said that, while the agreement might not herald the same good news for all sectors of the U.S. economy, it was unquestionably a positive step forward for most farmers and food businesses.

While true throughout the country, they said it would be especially beneficial to the Delmarva region.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American products have already made large inroads into the Mexican market. Since the liberalization of Mexico's trade policy in 1986, the United States has seen a $5.7 billion trade deficit with Mexico transform into a $5.4 billion trade surplus.

Mexico is the third-largest market for U.S. agricultural goods.

USDA officials have estimated that after NAFTA's implementation, nationwide revenues for coarse grain, including corn and soybean, would likely increase between $400 million and $500 million a year in trade with Mexico.

Poultry producers in the U.S. would likely fare even better, with some estimates predicting a 150 percent jump in sales.

Mr. Walker noted that Maryland, Delaware and Virginia were all strong producers in these markets.

Maryland agriculture officials said exports of manufactured food products to Mexico increased 36 percent last year. The hope is that Mexico's rising population would create a fast-growing market for U.S. poultry, one of the Delmarva region's major commodities.

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