Guest Columnist

Perdue: USMCA is a victory for Iowa agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at his Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on March 23, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at his Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on March 23, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.
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As secretary of agriculture, I’ve traveled across the nation and around the world, promoting the bounty of the American harvest. I like to say that America is located in the best neighborhood on earth, with Canada and Mexico as some of our top trading partners.

But as with all things that age, the North American Free Trade Agreement needed some updates, tweaks, and changes. The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) does just that, making important fixes that will benefit America’s hardworking farmers, ranchers, and producers — many of those right here in Iowa.

In 2018, Iowa exported $6.6 billion worth of products to Canada and Mexico, including billions of dollars’ worth of machinery, corn, soybeans, pork, and processed foods. USMCA creates more market openings for Iowans to sell their top exports to our closest neighbors. This is a better deal for Iowans that will help continue to support this great economy and lower costs for families, all while supporting American jobs.

This week, I was proud to visit the Hawkeye state and stopped by to meet with the men and women of two agriculture companies to see for myself the positive impact USMCA will have in your communities when Congress approves the deal. Corteva Agriscience and Vermeer Corporation are both American companies that lead the world in biotech innovation and farm equipment manufacturing. Not only does USMCA expand market access for commodities and crops, but also the agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology, including new technologies such as gene editing, to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. USMCA ensures a level playing field for American agriculture.

Additionally, the deal secures greater access to markets and lowered barriers for our agricultural products. Specifically, it eliminates Canada’s unfair Class 6 and 7 milk pricing schemes, opens additional access to U.S. dairy into Canada, and imposes new disciplines on Canada’s supply management system. The agreement also preserves and expands critical access for U.S. poultry and egg producers into Canada. Iowa produces more eggs than any other state — USMCA gives Iowans more markets to sell their healthful and wholesome egg products. America’s agricultural producers will benefit from these improvements, and our neighbors will get to experience more American agriculture.

On my first day as Secretary, President Donald Trump promised he would work to get better deals for American farmers, and USMCA is proof of that. Many of President Donald Trump’s policies have been beneficial to American agriculture in the short term from tax reform, to deregulatory actions, to initiating year-round E15, but also have laid the foundation for long-term prosperity. Our farmers, ranchers, and producers have an abundance of the highest quality products they want to sell around the globe. President Donald Trump is laying the foundation for a stronger farm economy through USMCA and other new trade deals.

If we are to keep our economy booming and continue to feed and clothe the world, Congress must pass USMCA. Passage of this updated 21st century trade agreement will send a strong signal to other key export markets such as Japan and the EU that the President and Congress are serious about pursuing and enacting future agreements that will create better economic opportunities for our country. I thank President Donald Trump for successfully renegotiating and updating this decades-old trade agreement, and I urge Congress to quickly ratify it so Americans can sustain our booming economy for years to come.

• Sonny Perdue is U.S. secretary of agriculture.

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