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Wisconsin farmers react to USMCA signing

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CAMBRIDGE, Wis. (CBS 58) – Dairy farmers in south central Wisconsin are hopeful trade deals can lead to growth but say more needs to be done in order to help the agriculture industry.

President Donald Trump signed the USMCA trade agreement Wednesday, Jan. 29 and touted it as essential to helping the U.S. economy.

"The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved,” Trump said in Washington. “There's never been anything like it.”

But to some dairy farmers, it’s too little too late.

“USMCA is really NAFTA all over again,” said Duane Hinchley, a dairy farmer in Cambridge, about 25 miles south east of Madison.

Duane and his wife Tina have managed to get through turbulent times, especially recently.

“Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Tina told reporters during a tour organized by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “Our markets are volatile, milk prices up and down like a yo-yo, we’ve got issues with weather and everything else that goes with it and it’s always been that way, but more so recently.”

The Hinchleys have had to expand their farm and diversify their business in order to remain operational. Other farms, however, have not been as fortunate.

Family farm bankruptcies across the U.S. went up by 20 percent in 2019, according to the Farm Bureau. Wisconsin lost 10 percent of dairy farms alone last year.

The issue may be key to winning crucial battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – all of which were won by Trump in 2016.

The Hinchleys hope their voices aren’t lost as Trump and democrats try to win their votes.

“Being this an election year, we are less than 2 percent of the population,” said Tina Hinchley. “I’m thinking we might get missed in who they’re picking to focus on.”

Duane Hinchley noted that Evers bringing up agriculture in his State of the State address was received well by the agriculture industry.

Evers called for a special session to address the crisis in the dairy and agriculture industries with a $8.5 million package that aims to boost exports, help farmers diversify crops and provide mental health funding.

The Hinchleys say they’re hopeful this year’s production can begin to turn things around but say politicians in Washington and Madison need to see the issues on the ground in order to come up with the right solutions.

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