Corn farmers, lawmakers worry about Trump’s potential ‘trade war’ with Mexico

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Mexico is escalating the war of words with President Trump over trade policy, and that's not sitting well with farmers.

Some Mexican lawmakers want to stop buying corn from the U.S. and shift those purchases to Brazil and Argentina.

John Handsanker is a corn farmer from Radcliffe, Iowa. He says he faces uncertainty with his crops every season, but now there are more unknowns with a new Mexican proposal to stop buying U.S. corn.

“It’s certainly not something we want to see happen," Handsanker said. "We want to support trade policies that are open and inclusive of everyone."

America is the world leader for growing and shipping corn, and when it comes to exports, Mexico is our biggest recipient. It's an industry valued at $2.4 billion. However, those figures could change if Mexican lawmakers' plans go through. It's the latest attempt to retaliate against President Trump's threat of a border tax.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is concerned. He recently met with the president's chief trade advisor.

“I'm not saying that the President shouldn't negotiate because if a president can get the United States a better deal than we have, who would find fault with that," Sen. Grassley explained. "But, you've got to be very cautious as you approach it because it could hurt agriculture."

Experts say the threat wouldn’t just disrupt the Corn Belt. They point out Mexico would lose money if they decide to boycott U.S. corn.

“I think clearly the Mexicans are upset," Gary Blumenthal, the President of World Perspectives Inc. The economics still favor Mexico buying US corn and these are commercial purchases.”

Blumenthal says a sudden loss of 28 percent of the corn export market would cause problems initially. However, he says in the long term, it may not actually have an adverse impact.

“If for example, Mexico bought more corn from Argentina, then Argentina would have less corn to sell to another country," Blumenthal said. "Since there is a finite supply currently, then the US would simply supply to whatever market Argentina gave up in order to sell to Mexico," he said.

Experts expect more discussions on agricultural trade once the Senate confirms Agriculture Secretary nominee, Sonny Perdue.