by Mayzie Purviance
2019 was a big year for agriculture news. Between the #FairCattleMarkets campaign and lobbying efforts surrounding the Endangered Species Act, one major piece of news rises to the top: USMCA.
The U.S. – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) flooded news-stands all over the country and, finally, is coming to a vote. Although many express optimism with the fact that Congress is finally addressing the trade deal, some citizens and organizations are not satisfied with all components of the USMCA.
The following statements offer various agricultural organizations views on the USMCA.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
“There is no higher policy priority for America’s beef producers than maintaining our duty-free access to Canada and Mexico, and that’s exactly what the USMCA will do. The Trump Administration and Speaker Pelosi deserve credit for working together to get this deal done, and now is the time for Congress to approve USMCA so our producers can move forward with the certainty they need and deserve,” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said.
National Farmers Union
Although the vote was closely divided, the National Farmers Union (NFU) Board of Directors officially support the amended USMCA. However, many members of the board were not pleased with USMCA’s lack of addressing the issue of import dumping and the non-reinstatement of mandatory Country-of-Origin-Labeling (m-COOL).
“As it was originally written, USMCA never would have garnered National Farmers Union’s support. Not only did it fail to make significant improvements to NAFTA, but in some ways, it was even worse – especially its giveaways to the pharmaceutical industry, which would have led to higher health care costs,” NFU President Roger Johnson said. “But thanks to the persistence of Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats, the final deal excludes those giveaways and strengthens labor, environmental, and enforcement provisions.”
Johnson said the amended USMCA was the fair-trade deal hoped for by the nation’s farmers and ranchers with exception of the lack of m-COOL and antidumping regulations.
“While some of the dairy provisions are moderately helpful to farmers in the U.S., it isn’t enough to justify the corresponding harm to Canada’s supply management system that has served their dairy farmers so well.
“USMCA might be a small step forward, but it is preceded by many large steps backward. Ultimately, these modest improvements are dwarfed by the immense damage that President Trump has inflicted by destroying our reputation as a reliable trading partner and by wiping out agricultural markets that farmers had worked for decades to build,” Johnson concluded.
R-CALF was quick to point out that the U.S. cattle industry is the largest segment of American agriculture, and the proposed USMCA “does absolutely nothing to change provisions impacting cattle and beef trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico.”
“In fact, the new USMCA is worse than the old NAFTA because at least for several years during the old NAFTA, American cattle farmers and ranchers received the tool they needed to finally compete against the growing volume of cheaper imported beef and cattle from Canada and Mexico. From 2013 through 2015, mandatory country-of-origin labels for beef empowered America’s cattle producers to finally begin competing against this growing tide of cheaper, undifferentiated foreign beef,” R-CALF said.
R-CALF said cattle producers “have been ignored,” and should now expect the “downward trends caused by NAFTA to continue, if not accelerate, under the USMCA.”
“Under NAFTA, we lost 20 percent of our cattle operations, wiped out 75 percent of our farmer-feeder-type feedlots, reduced our herd size by millions of head of cattle, and we’ve eliminated opportunities for current and aspiring cattle producers alike with the burden of a horrendous trade deficit in the trade of cattle and beef with Canada and Mexico. We urge Congress to vote the USMCA down in its present form.”
South Dakota Farmers Union
“South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are no better off with the USMCA than they were before. Leaders had opportunities to make additions to this trade agreement which could really help, like reinstating Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), and it didn’t happen,” SDFU President Sombke, a fourth-generation crop and cattle farmer, said.
Sombke added that USMCA is very similar to its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and this agreement does not improve market conditions for South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers.
“Basically, politicians started the house on fire, now they want credit for putting it out, while it’s still burning here in South Dakota for agriculture,” Sombke said.
Senator Daines (R-MT)
After months of speaking on the U.S. Senate floor and urging House Speaker Pelosi to pass the USMCA, Senator Daines celebrated the announcement of the final decision to move the agreement forward.
“It’s about time,” Daines said. “Montanans have been eagerly waiting for this important trade deal for Montana ag to move forward. That’s why I’ve made it my top priority to urge Speaker Pelosi to come to the table and get this done for our farmers and ranchers. I am proud to stand with President Trump as we work to get this deal across the finish line. The USMCA is a win-win for Montana and America and will help our farmers and ranchers have certainty and access to important markets.”
Daines is the only Montanan on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over international trade. He was a strong advocate for the USMCA and has looked forward to getting this deal across the finish line for over a year.
The press release from Senator Daines’ office also listed these “Fun Facts About USMCA:”
- USMCA is expected to create over 180,000 new American jobs
- USMCA is forecasted to boost our nation’s GDP by $70 Billion
- In 2018 alone, Montana had $731 million dollars in total exports to Canada and Mexico