Heidi Heitkamp: How to keep North Dakota farmers strong? Pass the USMCA
The Bismarck Tribune
By Heidi Heitkamp
August 11, 2019
No matter where you are in North Dakota, there’s a good chance you’re just around the corner from one of our state’s many cattle ranches or wheat fields. That’s because agriculture is the backbone of North Dakota, creating new opportunities in all corners of the state. Almost 90% of our land is used by farmers and ranchers and about a quarter of North Dakotans are employed by the agriculture industry.
The success of our agriculture industry is directly linked to our ability to engage in free, fair and enforceable trade with customers around the globe. To continue supporting North Dakota agriculture, our farmers and ranchers need trade agreements that match the reality of modern agriculture and the 21st century economy.
How do we ensure this growth is possible? Through smart trade policies that put the interests of our family farms, wheat growers, dairy producers, and ranchers first. Luckily for American agriculture, a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, commonly referred to as the USMCA, will inject new growth into North Dakota’s economy.
In 2017, North Dakota businesses exported more than $5 billion worth of goods and services to Canada and Mexico. Congressional approval of the USMCA will empower North Dakota businesses to increase their exports and compete on a level playing field.
This new agreement provides much-needed updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a 25-year-old trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. When it was enacted, NAFTA enabled North Dakota farmers and ranchers to reach new customers and more easily sell their crops, produce and meat to our North American neighbors. But that was a quarter of a century ago. It is time for an update.
Thanks to the USMCA, North Dakota’s agricultural products will no longer lose out to foreign competitors in these key markets because this new trade deal expands access into the Canadian and Mexican markets for our dairy, poultry, and wheat products. Now, North Dakota agriculture is poised to compete and win new customers in Canada, Mexico and around the world.
Critical to the success of North Dakota wheat growers, the USMCA establishes fair treatment for how Canada and Mexico grade wheat exports, a top priority in efforts to create fair competition for our farmers. This modern trade agreement also establishes rules of the road for agriculture biotechnology to encourage innovation in an industry that is constantly trying to lower its cost of production. America’s farmers operate with 21st century business models, and they need 21st century trade deals to match. The USMCA is that trade deal.
Across the country and across all industries, the USMCA will create roughly 176,000 jobs and grow the economy by more than $68 billion because of increased exports to Canada and Mexico. U.S. food and agricultural exports alone are estimated to climb by $2.2 billion under the USMCA, with $435 million of that estimated to come from new markets in Canada and Mexico.
Farmers and ranchers in North Dakota do not just 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 the table. It’s time for Congress to deliver for our farmers and ranchers.
Heitkamp is a co-chair of Trade Works for America – a bipartisan coalition working to secure passage of the USMCA – and served as a Democratic U.S. senator for North Dakota from 2013 to 2019.