Farmers for Free Trade Hold Rally as they push for USMCA PassageTue, 03 Dec 2019 17:38:54 CST
Today, Farmers for Free Trade hosted a call with Michelle Erickson-Jones, a wheat farmer from Montana; Former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and current President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council; and Coalition Spokesperson, Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to discuss the need to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). On the call, the participants also spoke about a new letter from more than 2,200 farmers nationwide that was sent to House and Senate leaders, calling for swift passage of the modernized trade agreement, which was signed nearly a year ago.
“USMCA does two very important things for American agriculture: it guarantees open access to critical markets in Canada and Mexico, and for the dairy farmers of this country, it provides additional access to a market that has been closed for far too long in Canada—additional access in terms of the ability to sell more product in Canada, but also an end to a discriminatory pricing system that the Canadians have established,” Secretary Vilsack said on the call.
American agriculture is struggling, and USMCA is a badly needed victory that will help restore certainty for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The U.S. food and ag industries export $20.5 billion in goods to Canada and $18.6 billion to Mexico annually. Under NAFTA, which USMCA updates and upgrades, agricultural exports from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico have increased from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $39 billion in 2017.
“Those export dollars provide economic certainty and security, not only to farmers and ranchers, but also to workers at every stop in the supply chain for agriculture – from grain elevator operators, to rail and ship workers, to rural small businesses,”Senator Lincoln said on the call.
“Not having a set trade agreement – a long-term trade agreement like NAFTA or improving it with USMCA – puts a lot of our market share and the work we’ve done to develop relationships at risk. Traders and importers don’t like uncertainty, and agriculture certainly doesn’t like uncertainty. From our farmers’ perspective, it’s essential that USMCA is passed—it creates certainty that we very badly need in our export markets,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, a fourth-generation wheat farmer in Montana.
“Each day without action on USMCA is another day of uncertainty for American farmers and our rural communities,”the farmers wrote in a new letter released today. “Farmers, as well as food and ag businesses, are struggling. The combination of record low prices, devastating weather episodes and uncertain markets have had a dramatic impact on our families, our friends and neighbors. Simply put, U.S. farmers and food and ag businesses need a win – now more than ever. We have a rare opportunity to bring Congress together to quickly help U.S. food and ag.”
Ratifying USMCA is a top priority for the nation's agriculture community, given the importance of exports to the rural economy. “If we aren’t exporting food, we don’t have a farm economy in the United States. We depend on these export markets. … Stabilizing trade with Canada and Mexico is so critically important,” said Farmers for Free Trade’s Brian Kuehl.
The letter, which was organized by the bipartisan Farmers for Free Trade, asked that Members of Congress work across party lines to cooperate on the legislation and to not let politics get in the way.
Senator Lincoln echoed a similar sentiment on today’s call: “We know that Members of Congress are back in town with a lot on their plate, but we are at the point where the rubber meets the road on USMCA. With negotiators on the cusp of agreeing to changes that Congress has sought, there should be nothing stopping them from working across the aisle to get this done quickly.”
Starting in April, Farmers for Free Trade embarked on a 30-state, 20,000 mile, 100-stop tour of the country called the Motorcade for Trade in support of USMCA. The tour was led by a 25-foot RV and included meetings events with members of
Congress, farmers, ranchers and agri-businesses that depend on trade. The tour concluded with a rally on the National Mall with nearly 20 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in attendance.
The farmers signing the letter sent today are mainly small, family farmers that Farmers for Free Trade and its supporters have met or connected with through their advocacy efforts.
The full text of today’s letter:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, Leader Schumer:
On behalf of America's 2.5 million farmers and all Americans involved in the food and agriculture supply chains -- we are writing to urge you to quickly pass the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed by the three countries’ leaders nearly one year ago.
Each day without action on USMCA is another day of uncertainty for American farmers and our rural communities.
Each year, U.S. food and ag industries export $20.5 billion in goods to Canada and $18.6 billion to Mexico. Those dollars are what keep our farms and manufacturing facilities open. Those dollars are the backbone of our rural communities supporting Main Street USA.
Today, however, farmers as well as food and ag businesses are struggling. The combination of record low prices, devastating weather episodes and uncertain markets have had a dramatic impact on our families, our friends and neighbors. Our communities are facing a significant increase in farm bankruptcies that ripple through the food and ag supply chains and hurt main street businesses throughout rural America.
Uncertainty in trade has had a major impact on U.S. agriculture. We have suffered from retaliatory tariffs, lost market share, and watched while America’s competitors are seen as more reliable trading partners. The reasons for this crisis are manifold but providing certainty about continued trade with two of our three largest export markets would provide America's farmers and food manufacturers with a needed boost.
Simply put, U.S. farmers and food and ag businesses need a win – now more than ever.
We have a rare opportunity to bring Congress together to quickly help U.S. food and ag; North American trade is an area where we know both parties can cooperate. The USMCA builds on the success of NAFTA and modernizes and updates that agreement with important provisions that support U.S. agriculture, manufacturing and services, as well as drive American innovation and competitiveness. With both Mexico and Canada moving to implement the trade deal, it is time for the U.S. Congress to engage and adopt this agreement.
Ratifying USMCA is a top priority for the nation's agriculture community. We look forward to action from both parties in the House and the Senate and are asking that you work together to pass the USMCA as soon as possible. We are counting on our elected officials to champion the folks back home and appreciate your urgent action.
Source: Farmers for Free Trade
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