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Opinion: Midwest workers, farmers, and ranchers need USMCA


Disastrous flooding. Lower commodity prices. Limited access to global markets. America’s farmers and ranchers have faced difficult times the last few years, and they are in need of a dose of good news that is within immediate reach.

Luckily for American agriculture, President Trump negotiated a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, commonly referred to as the USMCA, which will help agriculture immensely. This new agreement provides much-needed updates to NAFTA, a 25-year old trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The USMCA will help provide the relief thousands of Midwest farmers and ranchers in our states are seeking. Across the country and all industry sectors, the USMCA will create roughly 176,000 jobs and inject more than $68 billion into the economy by increasing exports to Canada and Mexico. U.S. food and agricultural exports alone are estimated to increase by $2.2 billion under the USMCA, with $435 million expected to come from increased market access to Canada and Mexico.

While NAFTA served to significantly lower barriers to the Canadian and Mexican markets, the agreement had not been reviewed in almost a quarter century and was not keeping up with the times. In the last 25 years, the tools and equipment we use to harvest have modernized, and the industry faces a number of new global competitors, most notably China. The USMCA will make American agriculture even more competitive in a global marketplace.

Between 1993 and 2016, NAFTA helped quadruple U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico from $8.9 billion to $38 billion. The USMCA allows us to keep these gains for agriculture, while modernizing our trading relationship. In fact, every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 7,550 American jobs, meaning roughly 286,900 agricultural jobs already rely on trade with Canada and Mexico. Those numbers have significant meaning in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. Our states support a total of 174,000 jobs through
$20 billion in agriculture exports alone.

How can we help put our farmers and ranchers in a position to succeed? Through smart trade policies that put the interests of our workers, family farms, and ranchers first. The USMCA expands access to the Canadian and Mexican markets for American dairy, poultry, and eggs after years of unfair treatment — an expected export boost of more than $314 million for American agriculture.

This 21st century trade agreement establishes rules of the road for agricultural biotechnology to encourage innovation for our industry. The U.S., Mexico and Canada have agreed to continue working together on improvements to transparency as we work through issues that affect trade between our nations.

In the heartland, we are proud to raise food, fuel and fiber for the world. An estimated 47% of Iowa’s total exports totaling $6.6 billion worth of products are sent to our USMCA partners. In Missouri, 56% of total exports are sent to Canada and Mexico accounting for $7.8 billion worth of trade, and 42% of Nebraska’s total exports ($3.1 billion worth of products) are sent to the two countries. There is no doubt that upgrading this critical trade agreement brings with it great economic opportunities for our three states.

Americans are leading the way by constantly striving to be sound environmental stewards, raise high quality food and lower the cost of production. Midwest farmers and ranchers not only feed their families — they feed the world. The USMCA will give them the fair, level playing field they need to keep their tractors running and food on our tables. It’s time for Congress to deliver for our farmers and ranchers, and ratify the USMCA.