The Waiting Game

By: Jill J. Dunkel

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is waiting on us. In June, the Mexican government ratified the agreement. The next day, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed his government’s commitment to passing the USMCA as soon as possible.

As for the U.S., we are “working on it.”

President Trump signed the agreement, but Congress has not approved the measure as of press time, which is a few days before the six-week Congressional recess. Most expect the agreement to be on the table when senators and representatives return in September.

The USMCA replaces NAFTA as the trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States. It has several benefits for the agricultural sector.

“American cattle producers need to maintain our unrestricted, duty-free access to markets in Canada and Mexico, and that’s exactly what USMCA would guarantee us,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “Jeopardizing that access by having Congress not take action on USMCA is simply not an option for us.”

In June, 960 groups representing the U.S. food and agriculture value chain at the national, state and local sent letters to Congress asking for quick ratification. The letter stated, “Over the last 25 years, U.S. food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled under NAFTA – growing from $9 billion in 1993 to nearly $40 billion in 2018. NAFTA has significantly helped create a reliable, high-quality supply of food products for U.S. consumers, while supporting more than 900,000 American jobs in food and agriculture and related sectors of the economy. USMCA builds on the success of the NAFTA agreement, and will ultimately lead to freer markets and fairer trade. This modernized trade agreement makes improvements to further enhance U.S. food and agricultural exports to our neighbors and would deliver an additional $2.2 billion in U.S. economic activity.”

The beef industry launched a campaign weeks ago to promote ratification of USMCA. According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, U.S. beef exports account for $323 per head of fed cattle, with exports to Canada and Mexico alone accounting for $70 per head. Last year, $745 Million worth of U.S. beef was exported to Canada, and $1.06 Billion was exported to Mexico.

According to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by Vice President Mike Pence, the USMCA it will help America’s ranchers and farmers to continue feeding the world. By removing barriers and opening new markets, the USMCA will increase U.S. agricultural and food exports by more than $2 billion annually.

Now we wait. This is not a political battle. No matter which side of the aisle you support, this is something the beef industry – and all of agriculture – need.

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