The Hill: Mike Naig: Congress holds the reins to help American agriculture thrive in the global marketplace

Mike Naig: Congress holds the reins to help American agriculture thrive in the global marketplace
The Hill
By Mike Naig
July 10, 2019

America’s farmers are hard-working and resilient. They take pride in feeding our communities and accept the uncertainty, inherent risks and uncontrollable forces — like good weather and fair trade — that affect their success. Midwestern farmers have been dealt a tough hand this spring from damaging floods, historic planting delays and trade tariffs. Ensuring farmers have long-term, free and fair access to our largest trade markets is critical to empowering the next generation of family farmers.

While the latest round of federal trade aid assistance will provide some much needed, short-term relief for farm families, farmers need and want markets to sell their products. Congress has the power to open additional market opportunities right now by ratifying the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USMCA seeks to build upon the success of its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which helped quadruple U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico between 1993 and 2016. USMCA will ensure farmers, ranchers and food processors can continue to export goods to two of their most important global trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

Iowa is the second largest producer of agricultural products in the U.S. The state exported more than $10.3 billion in agricultural products to Canada and Mexico in 2017. These exported products support more than 83,400 jobs in the state of Iowa. Our state, like so many others, wants a fair, long-term, free-trade agreement to provide economic certainty for farmers and agribusinesses.

Food and agricultural exports alone are estimated to increase by $2.2 billion under the USMCA. The agreement expands access to the Canadian and Mexican markets for American dairy, poultry and egg products, which is expected to boost these exports by $314 million. U.S. agricultural products will maintain their current duty-free access to Mexico.

The USMCA also includes a new section on biotechnology and gene-edited agricultural products. This inclusion paves the way for innovative, sustainable agricultural practices to thrive across the continent.

Nearly 300,000 U.S. agricultural jobs rely on trade with Canada and Mexico. Just when we saw leaders from each country take steps towards ratifying USMCA, possible new retaliatory tariffs with Mexico have escalated trade tensions that threaten to impede our progress. While a broader conversation about border security and comprehensive immigration reform is needed, it is a separate issue. We should not allow it to impede trade policy and a much needed win for the U.S. economy. Lawmakers must act now to protect the livelihood of millions of Americans, and our relationships with our two biggest trading partners.

Secretary Naig is Iowa’s secretary of agriculture and vice chair of the Marketing and International Trade Committee for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

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