House USMCA passage draws mostly praise from ag groups

The U.S. House of Representatives on December 19 approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a move that drew praise from many agricultural organizations.

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(Craig Toocheck | Freeimages.com)
(Craig Toocheck | Freeimages.com)

The U.S. House of Representatives on December 19 approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) , a move that drew praise from many agricultural organizations.

The measure passed by a 385-41 vote. With approval given from the house, the legislation moves on to the U.S. Senate for a vote. Among those voting against USMCA were 38 Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent.

USMCA, if approved, will replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

A replacement for NAFTA had been sought by President Donald Trump since he was campaigning for president, but had stalled in Congress until earlier this month, when a deal was reached between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

“This vote has been delayed for far too long, leaving our farmers, small business owners and manufacturers dealing with unneeded uncertainty,” House Agriculture Committee member Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, stated. “As Kansas’ top trade partners, Canada and Mexico already account for over $4 billion in export sales annually, and ratification of USMCA will enable further growth, resulting in more exports to both countries.”

R-CALF disappointed

While many agricultural organizations, including the National Turkey Federation (NTF), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and Farmers for Free Trade (FFT) applauded the House vote, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) was disappointed with the vote, because USMCA does not require country of origin labeling (COOL).

"We are extremely disappointed but not at all surprised that it is business as usual in the House of Representatives. They continue to support the financial self-interests of multinational corporations while harming American consumers and independent cattle producers,” R-CALF said in a statement.

"But it isn't over yet, we will now shift our focus on the Senate and meanwhile, we know that our efforts have significantly elevated the awareness that mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef must be restored and we will not rest until it is.   

"The longer Congress and the president stall to reinstate mandatory COOL for beef more and more of America's largest segment of agriculture, the U.S. cattle industry along with economic opportunities for independent cattle producers, will be transferred to other countries; thus depriving rural America of its economic benefits.”

Here are statements of support issued by other organizations:

National Turkey Federation

“Bipartisan passage of the USMCA in the House brings us one step closer to ratification and the reinforcement of two crucial foreign markets for U.S. turkey products. Efforts by President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Perdue and congressional leaders have made this long-standing goal a possibility, but we’re not there yet. It is time for the Senate to see the USMCA through and support America’s turkey farmers and processors by solidifying these important trade relationships with Mexico – the turkey industry’s largest export partner – and Canada. We hope to see quick action on this major priority for American agriculture in the new year,” the NTF said in a statement

American Feed Industry Association

“Today is a big step forward for American agriculture and the animal food industry,” said Constance Cullman, AFIA’s president and CEO. “The USMCA builds upon an already great agreement with our neighbors to preserve and expand market access for the animal food and livestock industries while providing much needed stability across the agriculture sector.”

National Grain and Feed Association

“Having a sound and competitive trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is critical to the continued economic success of U.S agriculture and for the U.S. economy as a whole,” said NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon. “The USMCA preserves or expands upon critical market access for U.S. agricultural products in the North American market and provides a 21st century blueprint for future trade agreements.”

Farmers for Free Trade

“This is a bipartisan victory for American farmers who have been craving a return to certainty and stability on trade. USMCA continues duty-free access to Canada and Mexico which has been a bedrock of U.S. ag export growth for over 25 years. USMCA also provides important new wins including expanded market access for poultry and dairy; provisions that require science-based decision making on trade; and advances in supporting 21st century agricultural innovations,” the organization stated.

“We applaud (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and the White House for working together to broker this agreement that is in the best interests of America. We urge the Senate to now take quick action to also ratify this agreement."

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