Sponsored By
Farm Progress

Why this farmer believes new trade agreement is important to U.S. agricultureWhy this farmer believes new trade agreement is important to U.S. agriculture

John Hardin says it's time to move forward with a trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries.

Tom Bechman 1

September 30, 2016

3 Min Read

The beginning of John Hardin’s interest in agricultural trade dates back 50 years. He was an exchange student to New Zealand in 1965 and 1966 in the International Farm Youth Exchange program. He would never look at America the same again.

“Farmers there had to export ag products to live,” says Hardin, Danville farmer and past chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “It was very competitive. When you spend time in a foreign country, you become immersed in what happens there. I began to understand why things were the way they were there.”

Benefits of trade


Chris Hurt, Purdue University Extension ag economist, says the story of how U.S. pork exports increased over the past 25 years is extraordinary. Applying lessons learned two decades earlier, Hardin was in a key position to help bring about the change.

“It all began with the Uruguay Round of trade talks in 1985,” Hardin says. “It started under Ronald Reagan and didn’t conclude until 1993. By then Bill Clinton was president, and he was a free trade guy.”

Hardin was directly involved, representing the National Pork Producers Council when he served as its president, and representing the USMEF. From 1991 to 2001, he was on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade, which advises trade negotiators.

Trade talks take time to work out the rules of trade, Hardin says. “You can’t have free trade without rules that all countries abide by. Increasing exports for a product like pork is all about access. We gain access to markets through trade negotiations.”

There was a fundamental change in the world from 1985 through 2010, when 1 billion people joined the middle class, many of them in Asia.

Hardin says Bob Thompson, former Purdue University dean of agriculture and later head of the World Bank, explained it this way: “When per-capita income rises from $2 per day to $10 per day, 80% of the increase goes for better food.”

That was $6.4 billion more spent on food every day, Hardin says. Some of it went to meat and poultry products. Coupled with trade agreements, pork exports exploded.

Future for trade

“Farmers should understand that they have a stake in trade negotiations,” Hardin says. He encourages everyone to pay attention to the attitude of different candidates on trade agreements.

Hardin has two major concerns. One is that the current rules of trade, established over long periods of negotiations, be left in place because they work. The second is that if trade negotiations are reopened, agricultural exports could be at risk.

U.S. ag products are targeted by foreign countries if trade disputes arise. Ag products are sensitive to trade issues, he says. Upheaval in trade agreements could put the future of ag exports at risk.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was negotiated but never brought to Congress. If approved, it could open access to pork exports in places like Vietnam, Hardin says. China is not part of that agreement.

“Proponents don’t believe there are enough votes in Congress to pass it [TPP],” he says. “It’s not a partisan issue. As farmers, we ought to know what attitudes elected officials and candidates have on this agreement. We need to elect those who can meet in the middle and pass this agreement.”

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like