U.S. farmers and agribusinesses are wary of the protectionism driving the trade policy of President Donald Trump, while rivals are calculating how doors closed by the U.S. could open markets for them. David MacLennan, chief executive officer of Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader, says the U.S. “cannot wall ourselves off” from world markets. He warns that protectionism can “provide famine, cause conflict and even war.” . . .
The outcome could be a shift away from America, the world’s traditional breadbasket. Brazil, Australia, Russia, and Ukraine are well-positioned to profit from any American disruption. “You’re shooting yourself in the foot,” says Joe Glauber, a former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and chief U.S. negotiator on farm issues during the Doha Round of global trade talks. “If a supplier starts to be seen as unreliable, the global supply chain adjusts, and that player will lose market share going forward.”
Unlike sectors such as manufacturing, where trade deals are blamed for job losses, U.S. agriculture has benefited from globalization. Sales of U.S. corn, soybeans, cattle, and other commodities will reach $134 billion in the 2017 fiscal year, up from $129.7 billion the year before, according to the USDA. This year, Canada and Mexico will account for $39.6 billion of U.S. farm trade, or 31 percent.
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