The Oregonian: Gary Roth: Opinion: Let’s get off the sidelines and pass new trade pact with Mexico, Canada

Gary Roth: Opinion: Let’s get off the sidelines and pass new trade pact with Mexico, Canada
The Oregonian
By Gary Roth
October 7, 2019

Roth is executive director of the Oregon Potato Commission.

I've spent almost my entire life connected to Oregon agriculture in some way. From growing up on a 300-acre beef and hog operation, to studying agriculture at Oregon State University, to working for the Oregon Department of Agriculture for more than 20 years.

That lifetime of experience has taught me that international trade is absolutely vital to our state's farmers.

Structured trade agreements that eliminate barriers to our exports have long been the difference-maker on whether a farming operation can grow, hire and expand. Trade agreements open new markets, reduce costs in existing markets and encourage farms to innovate. They create opportunities for Oregon farmers, ranchers and fishers to sell to the 95 percent of consumers who live beyond our nation's borders.

In the next few months, our state’s congressional delegation will have a big decision to make about our trading relationship with Canada and Mexico, Oregon’s closest and most important trading partners. At stake is the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been updated, improved and renamed as the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.

Regardless of commodity or region, our state's farmers know how important NAFTA has been. Canada was Oregon’s second-largest agricultural trade partner in 2018, with exports totaling about $3.2 billion. That’s a 35% increase from 2017. In Oregon, nearly 8% of our state's workforce depends on NAFTA.

However, NAFTA is outdated and insufficient for the modern agricultural economy. It needs to be updated to reflect agriculture and supply chains in the modern, digital age. That is exactly what the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico would do.

Without a formalized agreement between the United States and Canada, our farmers are faced with an uncertain future. Oregon’s agriculture industry grows and harvests more than $5 billion of some 250 distinct commodities, but a lot of that depends on stable trading relationships. In fact, 80% of everything Oregon grows leaves the state, and half of that is exported around the world.

Stabilizing trade between the United States and our neighbors should not be a partisan issue. The new trade agreement would provide protections and security to business owners and consumers alike.

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