In an opinion piece earlier in February, David MacLennan, Cargill CEO, spoke out against current actions in the US that have the potential to damage legal immigration practices and international trade or that may make immigrants question a move to the US.
He underlined how Cargill sees value in the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers, saying it helps with hiring people that can bring creativity and new insights to US companies.
Sarena Lin, president of Cargill’s compound feed business, told FeedNavigator the agribusiness group picked this time to speak publically about the issues of trade and immigration because of the role it sees free trade playing.
“Our goal is to ensure we are part of the conversation and asserting our point of view about the importance of free trade,” she said.
Cargill is looking to take part in a dialogue regarding trade and immigration practices, she said. “We believe it is important to listen and engage in constructive dialogue about this issue, and advocate for what we believe is right,” said Lin.
The current US administration has spoken about seeking to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and signed an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that many in the feed industry supported.
“This is too important to our company mission of nourishing the world, so we cannot sit idly by and not offer our point of view,” said Lin. “Access to food is a basic human right. Restricting trade can limit that access, artificially raise prices for consumers, divert food from markets in need, send mixed signals to farmers as they make planting decisions, and misdirect agricultural investment.”
Wider trade implications
Global trade allows for movement of commodities to areas where they are needed, said Lin.
“In recent years, however, open trade – and especially international trade agreements – have come under fire from critics who say they are bad for workers, consumers and the environment,” she said. “Cargill is a long-time proponent of trade liberalization, and believes food should flow freely across borders.”
The company believes free trade is a necessary practice, she said. For example, NAFTA is credited by the USDA with more than quadrupling US exports to Canada and Mexico since it was started.
As a climate that appears to question global trade and immigration grows, it was time to offer another point of view, said Lin.
“Open trade and functioning markets are necessary to delivering long-term food security, job creation and economic growth,” she said. “Among those who stand to benefit are farmers, consumers and many workers and employers along the supply chain.”
Additionally, one way Cargill is able to remain competitive is through attracting new employees and that relies, in part, on legal immigration being available, she said.
“Unfortunately, the current climate has some from outside the US wondering if they are welcome here,” she said. “If we drive away talented people and their innovative thinking, we would not only weaken our food system, but also the US economy.”