The importance of trade in Iowa cannot be understated. As the economy of Iowa has grown into an international power so too has our state’s reliance on trade, namely with the neighboring nations of Canada and Mexico. As the Vice President of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, I feel compelled to fight for the continued success of farmers across the state. The catalyst to the continued success of Iowa’s corn growers is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.
This new and improved North American trade pact will create new markets for Iowa corn while also carving out new market share for exporters, meaning continued economic growth and more market share for quality American goods. It is imperative the Congressional leaders of our state rally their colleagues to pass the USMCA trade pact quickly, protecting vital trade markets for Iowa farmers and ensuring a prosperous economic future.
Iowa exports more corn as a state than any other in America, with more than 87,000 farms across the state. Iowa also ranks first in the U.S. in the production of soybeans, hogs, eggs, ethanol, and dry distillers grain solubles. This proves the reliance of the Iowa economy on exported agricultural products, as farmers ship their wares across the world each year. The foundation of our state’s booming agricultural industrial is free trade, protected through various trade agreements allowing for farmers to conduct their business without concerns over tariffs and high overhead costs. The USMCA would give the producers of Iowa the groundwork needed to expand their operations and secure key markets for exports in years to come.
Business leaders across Iowa support the passage of the USMCA, as noted in the Des Moines Register in early 2018. The Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry both voiced support for the USMCA, groups collectively representing more than 6,000 businesses across the state. Iowa businesses and farmers export more to Canada and Mexico than to the next 23 export partners combined, further cementing the importance of free trade in North America for the Iowa economy. Total trade between the three North American countries is now more than $1 trillion, with the GDP of all three nations doubling since the original passage of NAFTA in 1993. By updating the NAFTA agreement via the USMCA, Congress would show the hardworking people of Iowa that their contributions to the U.S. economy are important and that policymakers are committed to the continued growth of American agriculture and manufacturing.
Without trade protections, exporters would face extreme costs when sending their goods across borders. Pork would face a 10 percent tariff when shipped to Mexico, and beef would be subject to a staggering 25 percent tariff when sent to our southern neighbor. Agriculture would face dire straits without trade protections, as high fructose corn syrup, a major export from the state of Iowa would face tariffs of 75 percent, creating an unsustainable trade environment for exporters. Most of the corn grown in Iowa is not the kind humans consume, instead being used for the production of corn syrup, animal feed, and ethanol production. Given the uses of Iowa corn, the imposition of tariffs would stifle the corn industry and lead to the closure of countless farms and high job losses across the state.
The USMCA is imperative to the economy of Iowa, as our state relies on trade protections for growth and pivotal market access. Without the quick passage of the USMCA, business owners in Iowa will suffer, negating any positive progress seen since the passage of NAFTA in 1993. I ask that our state’s Congressional leadership work to generate the support of their colleagues for the passage of USMCA in 2019 — their constituents count on a ratified agreement to jump start Iowa’s economic growth.
• Jim Greif is vice president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, a 36-year veteran of the Linn County Farm Bureau board of directors and a grain farmer near Monticello.