When you think of Ohio, agricultural exports may not be the first thought that comes to mind. But did you know that Ohio is the sixth largest exporter of soybeans and the seventh largest exporter of corn in the country? Among the states, Ohio is the 11th largest exporter of all agricultural goods.
Ohio farmers export their crops around the world. Our agriculture economy heavily relies on the ability to send soybeans, grains, beef, pork and other products overseas. As a first generation farmer in Highland County, I rely on overseas market access for my livelihood. The crops I grow leave the United States through the Port of Cincinnati, supporting my family and many others throughout our local economy. It is imperative for the future of agriculture in the state that we can continue to competitively export these products.
But rising competition from other countries like China threatens the demand for Ohio products in world markets. Growers in other parts of the world are finding ways to grow and export their goods cheaper, which will eventually push American exports out of the market.
American farmers could find ourselves further disadvantaged after the United States pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The 11 countries involved in the TPP are close to signing a final agreement that would shrink the United States’ global leadership role, threatening our negotiating power on tax-free access to these markets.
The remaining members of the TPP account for approximately 13.5 percent of the global economy and billions of consumers. The United States’ absence from the TPP could ultimately subject our exports to higher tariffs, pricing our crops out of the market and hurting farmers at home. In an increasingly competitive world, the United States cannot lose any more ground.
To continue to grow Ohio’s agriculture economy, we must find new trade partners and expand relationships with existing ones.
The United States must look to countries in the Indo-Pacific region like Japan, India, South Korea and other like-minded countries for reliable trade relationships. Ohio farmers and other industries stand to gain more by increasing trade efforts with these countries.
A recent study by the Business Roundtable found that more than 1.5 million Ohio jobs are supported by international trade. More economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region will provide access to some of the fastest growing markets in the world. Improved trade with Indo-Pacific partners will attract more foreign investment in this country, which creates jobs all across our economy.
Farmers face many challenges that are out of our control. Battling mother nature alone is a year-round struggle for us. Let’s not make our job even harder by walking away from the world stage.
Without strong relationships and solid trade agreements with Indo-Pacific trade partners, the agriculture industry in our state will be in jeopardy. Jobs that rely on agriculture will be lost.
The United States must take advantage of opportunities for business with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Without swift action, other countries will take our place. Indo-Pacific nations need our goods and we need their business. Farmers across Ohio are depending on it.
Nathan Brown is a Highland County farmer and a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Board of Trustees.