By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
Nearly 1,000 broad-based organizations representing U.S. food and agriculture, including NGFA and many of its member companies and State/Regional Affiliate Associations, called on Congress this week to swiftly ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
In a June 11 letter sent to Congress, more than 950 groups representing the U.S. food and agriculture value chain at the national, state and local levels called on Congress to support USMCA ratification. The letter reiterates that USMCA will benefit the U.S. agriculture and food industry while providing consumers an abundant supply of safe, high-quality human and animal food at competitive prices.
“This trade accord improves market access for several U.S. agricultural products and contains significant improvements that will facilitate more seamless cross-border trade, particularly between the United States and Mexico,” said NGFA President and Chief Executive Officer Randy Gordon in a press release issued in tandem with the letter. “Specifically, for the grain and oilseed sector, the accord contains provisions that will facilitate more timely resolution of sanitary and phytosanitary issues that may arise in cross-border shipments, and will do so in a science-based manner in accordance with World Trade Organization protocols and existing international conventions. Further, the agricultural biotechnology provisions will encourage regulatory coherence among all three countries.
“In every respect, USMCA preserves or builds upon current market access for U.S agricultural products and will facilitate more efficient cross-border trade between all three countries,” Gordon said. “And its speedy ratification is absolutely essential if the United States is to be viewed as a reliable partner in negotiating much-needed future trade agreements with Japan and other countries that are so important to U.S. agriculture and our nation’s economic growth and job creation.”
President Donald Trump tweeted his appreciation of the letter on Tuesday: “On my way to Iowa – just heard nearly 1,000 agriculture groups signed a letter urging Congress to approve the USMCA,” Trump tweeted. “Our Patriot Farmers & rural America have spoken! Now Congress must do its job & support these great men and women by passing the bipartisan USMCA Trade Agreement!”
During a June 11 House agriculture subcommittee trade hearing, members of Congress cited the letter while making the case for the benefits of the USMCA and a modernized trade agreement.
“American producers have made it clear: the best thing we can do for our lagging agriculture economy is get this deal done,” said Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. “I urge my colleagues on the committee to join me in calling for Speaker Pelosi to bring USMCA to a vote in the House as soon as possible.”
Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, testified at the hearing, saying “the urgency to pass USMCA cannot be overstated for U.S. agriculture, due to the size of the Canadian and Mexican markets for U.S. ag.”
Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., said USMCA includes several accomplishments, but expressed concern over Trump’s recent tariff threat on Mexico and the president’s overall trade policy.
“I hope there [will] be no more policy surprises as we attempt to work on a bipartisan basis to move this trade agreement forward,” he said.
The United States and Mexico late last week reached an agreement to suspend tariffs that Trump threatened to impose on Mexican imports unless Mexico committed to take stronger measures to stop illegal emigration into the United States.
During a June 13 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing featuring Doud and USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he continues to be “very concerned about the overall impacts on U.S. agriculture as a result of the use of tariffs as a policy tool.”
Meanwhile, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the certainty of the latest farm bill is being jeopardized by Trump’s “chaotic and unpredictable trade policy,” despite the “best efforts” of Doud and McKinney.
Capitol Hill’s spotlight on trade policy continues next week when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies before the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees.
NGFA members should note that the Association soon will be calling on each employee of NGFA member companies to contact their senators and representatives in support of the USMCA. In addition, organizers of the June 11 letter supporting USMCA ratification still are accepting signatories from companies or organizations wishing to join. NGFA member companies that have not signed the letter yet are encouraged to do so by contacting NGFA Director of Economics and Government Relations Max Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pelosi Appoints Democrats to Lead Work Groups on USMCA Issues: In a related development, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has designated several members of the Democratic caucus to negotiate with the White House on specific aspects of the USMCA accord.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., will lead the group, which will conduct such discussions with Lighthizer. The four groups will focus on USMCA’s provisions regarding:
- Labor, led by Reps. Mike Thompson and Jimmy Gomez, both D-Calif.
- Drug pricing, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who chairs the Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee, and Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill.
- Environmental, led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and John Larson, D-Conn.
- Enforcement of all of the accord’s provisions, led by Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
A bipartisan House Ways and Means Committee staff delegation traveled to Mexico City earlier this month for a fact-finding mission to assess implementation of Mexico’s recently enacted labor reform bill.
Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on June 13 that Canada is moving ahead with ratification of USMCA, with timing “in tandem” with U.S. ratification.