Federated Farmers spokesperson and 2019 Nuffield scholar, Cameron Henderson has recently completed three weeks of travel through rural USA where trade policy is a hot topic.

The Trump administration, often referred to as 'he' or 'him', has been tearing up trade agreements since he took office two years ago.

The rhetoric is the agreements are not fair.

But these actions have been hard on the average American farmer as agricultural exports and prices plummet, however, many of these farmers voted for and continue to support him in his efforts for fair trade.


So what is a fair trade agreement in the eyes of the USA farmers?

In Iowa, a corn and soybean state, the food strategy is one of feeding the world.

I have heard from policy makers, university researchers and farmers that the goal is to produce more from less to supply the 9 billion mouths that will exist by 2050.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Ethically it is a hard argument to fault, with a growing number of starving mouths globally, why should we produce quality at the expense of quantity.

So a fair trade agreement allows USA farmers to compete on price to export as much as possible to feed as many as possible.

In our talks in Washington DC, trade policy is seen as unfair where the quality of USA products are viewed as inferior particularly by the European Union (EU).

GMO and hormone use blocks trade to the EU and is seen as pandering to perception rather than science.


So a fair trade agreement backs science based food standards over consumer driven standards.

In Florida, a state rapidly becoming the new horticultural food basket for the US as California runs out of water, farmers are concerned about cheap Mexican imports.

Cameron Henderson on a visit to the USDA to discuss trade. Photo / Supplied
Cameron Henderson on a visit to the USDA to discuss trade. Photo / Supplied

The cheaper imports are squeezing farm profits with environmental standards and wage costs considerably higher in the US than Mexico.

This has led to a growing concern about national food security and the reliance on imported food.

So a fair trade agreement supports USA farmers to protect USA food security?

These arguments form a strong, marketing message from the administration and ring true for the average North American farmer.

And while they can appear 'America First', it is hard to fault their ethical nature.

In my opinion, they are all smoke and mirrors to the underlying issue.

The subtle messages I have received here is Trump doesn't like being taken advantage of.

Trade deficits, particularly with China, Mexico and Canada, are viewed as others taking advantage of the USA.

So fair trade is ultimately about spending less and selling more.

I often have the same problem of spending more than I earn, but picking a fight with the salesman never gets me very far.

But then again the USA is a very, very big customer.