Exactly one year ago, several of my agriculture industry colleagues traveled to Montreal to ensure U.S. farmers and ranchers were at the table during a critical round of NAFTA trade negotiations.
Today, that agreement, now called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA, is ready to be considered by Congress. It couldn’t come at a more important time for farmers and small businesses in Iowa. From my perspective, as a proud member of a fourth-generation Central Iowa farm family, there isn’t a more important issue Congress will discuss this year.
Iowa agriculture has a rich heritage and my family has always been proud to be a small part of this large effort. Part of that heritage involves understanding how critical it is for farmers have open and free access to international markets like Mexico and Canada. On my farm in Nevada, we produce commercial corn and soybeans. A good portion of our corn or its by-products not consumed by ethanol, is shipped by rail to Mexico.
Iowa is the nation’s leader in pork, corn and eggs. We also rank second in the nation for soybeans, and seventh in beef production. Of those and many other grown-in-Iowa products exported to the world, more than 45 percent go to our neighbors in Canada and Mexico.
Trade also supports 121,000 Iowa jobs that depend on open markets, strong contacts and reliable contracts with consumer and buyers. That’s why its so important we approve the USMCA.
It’s also critical that steel and aluminum tariffs, and resulting retaliatory tariffs, are eliminated. These tariffs are unnecessary taxes paid by hard working American consumers. They not only damage Iowa agriculture industries, they threaten to eliminate any benefits USMCA would deliver.
For farmers across Iowa already facing uncertainty, the worst-case scenario would be total withdrawal from NAFTA. Leaving NAFTA would mean a devastating 28 percent drop in our exports, affecting virtually every farm in Iowa. It would also mean the return of double digit tariffs to our North American partners, particularly in Mexico.
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Leaving NAFTA would result in 19,000 jobs lost and a staggering $1.2 billion decline in overall state output. The soybean industry alone would lose $91 million, while the corn syrup industry would see $95 million in lost exports.
Iowa agriculture depends on strong relationships with Canada and Mexico. Our farmers know opening a market takes time and patience, but losing one can happen in a blink. The longer we let uncertainty continue, the less likely we are to build up the trust between international trading partners that took years to create.
We are at a point where we need a trade victory. The longer we go without passage of the USMCA, the longer farmers and ranchers will go without the certainty they need to plan for the long haul. It’s time for members in Congress — particularly those from our state — to come together and pass the USMCA. Iowa farmers are tough and resilient, but we desperately need Congress to stand up for and support the USMCA to restore confidence in our state’s ability to help feed the world.
• Scott Henry operates LongView Farms in Nevada, Iowa.