On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her plan to vote next week on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free-trade agreement. That announcement was met with praise and optimism by ag industry groups and rural lawmakers alike.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we have reached an historic agreement on the USMCA,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. “After working with Republicans, Democrats, and many other stakeholders for the past two years we have created a deal that will benefit American workers, farmers, and ranchers for years to come. This will be the model for American trade deals going forward.”
In his statement Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that USMCA is a big win for American workers, the economy, and particularly farmers and ranchers.
“President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer are laying the foundation for a stronger farm economy through USMCA and I thank them for all their hard work and perseverance to get the agreement across the finish line. While I am very encouraged by today’s breakthrough, we must not lose sight – the House and Senate need to work diligently to pass USMCA by Christmas,” he said.
Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) welcomed this week’s progress on the deal.
“I have been pushing for months to get this deal to the finish line, and this announcement is great news for farmers, businesses and workers, in Western Minnesota and nationwide,” said Peterson in a statment. “The threat of leaving NAFTA without a deal would have been devastating, and this deal provides needed certainty for our producers. This agreement makes updates to how the three countries will address biotechnology, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues. Rural America has faced many hurdles and challenges with these trade wars and passing the USMCA is a step in the right direction.”
Foreign Agriculture Chairman Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) noted how critical USMCA is to farmers in his district in California.
“Trade is vital to American agriculture, especially for the specialty crop, tree nut, dairy and livestock producers in the San Joaquin Valley and across California," said Costa. "The USMCA protects the access they had into the Canadian and Mexican markets and provides nominal gains in some important areas. It’s good to see that this deal strengthens labor and environmental standards and provides mechanisms to enforce this agreement.”
Still, there’s work to be done to reverse farmer losses, he added.
“I am proud to support approval of the USMCA, but we also must recognize that going forward, incremental improvements and protecting the status quo won’t reverse farmer losses as a result of the trade war,” he said. “For that to happen, the Administration needs to remove its tariffs, which are the source of so much economic hardship for our farmers, and at the core of our depressed farm economy.”
The passage of USMCA would be a significant boost to America’s dairy farmers, according to Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.
“USMCA will expand trade opportunities with our most valuable partners and secure immediate benefits for our rural communities, adding an estimated $548 million to dairy-farm revenues in its first six years after implementation,” Mulhern said in a statement. “Newly announced improvements to USMCA will also ensure that if our trading partners flout their dairy obligations under the trade deal, the U.S. has the tools it needs to vigorously enforce our rights. An already good deal for U.S. dairy farmers is even better now, thanks to these changes.”
Dairy farmers are counting on Congress to pass USMCA quickly, said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, in a statement.
“Finalizing USMCA will bolster international confidence in the U.S. as a serious negotiating partner and build momentum for other trade agreements in key markets abroad,” he said in a statement. “Without this crucial trade agreement, Made-in-America dairy and agriculture products could be left behind in the new year.”
Brody Stapel, president of Edge and a dairy farmer in eastern Wisconsin said farmers are grateful for progress on the deal. “Our farmers have been waiting in uncertainty for more than a year for USMCA to get done,” he said. “So, it’s certainly good news to see the deal take this significant step forward. There are more steps to be taken, however, so we are not breathing a full sigh of relief.”
Kansas Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he looks forward to reviewing the specific language of the recent changes. In his statement, he added USMCA is an example of President Donald Trump keeping his word.
“Passage of USMCA will be a significant win for farmers, workers and all Americans. Renegotiating NAFTA was a central campaign promise made by President Trump. He kept his word and Americans will enjoy the many benefits of this upgraded trade deal as a result,” he said.
According to Kevin Ross, an Iowa farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association, passage of USMCA would be a bright spot in a brutal year.
“NCGA’s top legislative priority in 2019 has been passing USMCA. Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to ratifying this important agreement and securing the future of our trading relationship with Mexico and Canada, the top export market for U.S. corn farmers,” he said. “It’s been a brutal year for many farmers who really need the certainty this would provide for agricultural trade.”
Similarly, David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C and president of the National Pork Producers council said USMCA is crucial for hog producers and lawmakers can expect to hear from them in the coming weeks.
"Members of Congress can count on hearing, yet again, from pork producers as NPPC is unleashing a grassroots call to action," he said. "We want a vote this year and NPPC will score this critically important trade agreement as a key vote."