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A vote for the USMCA is a vote for state farmers

Pennsylvania Agriculture, like American Agriculture, is stressed and our traditional safety net, exports, is greatly threatened.

In the past, challenges like low commodity prices have been partially offset by the one bright spot in our balance of trade where farm products consistently showed increased exports and revenue to agricultural producers. Despite current glimmers of hope on the U.S.-China trade war, such as the opening of the Chinese market to poultry product exports from the United States, farmers have lost huge markets because of this dispute which was not caused by agricultural issues.

Hopefully, that trade war will be resolved and the lost agricultural export markets will be regained. Unfortunately, that outcome is uncertain. Let’s not wait for that. We should instead seize an opportunity already at hand where the U.S. Congress could act affirmatively to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1994, Pennsylvania has developed a strong economic relationship with both Mexico and Canada. Now, if Congress truly wants to show its support for U.S. Agriculture, they must pass the USMCA. This will allow the American farmer to continue this fruitful relationship with a modernized trade deal. This deal should not be allowed to linger because of Congress’ preoccupation with other issues. Our members of Congress from Pennsylvania should push for its passage before the end of the year.

The Pennsylvania State Grange has always advocated for policies that will benefit PA Agriculture and the rural communities it supports. That is why there should be swift passage of the USMCA. Congress has an obligation to protect those who work round the clock to feed the rest of the country and the world. Rural economies are suffering as they await a continued trade relationship with our two neighbors.

Pennsylvania exported nearly $17 billion to Mexico and Canada alone in 2017. While all businesses may benefit from a modernized trade deal with our North American trading partners, it is very important to farmers and the agricultural community as a whole. U.S. farm income has dropped by 50 percent since 2013 and according to the USDA, at least 70 percent of U.S. farms face financial problems. USMCA is not a cure-all, but, it would offer much needed market support to farmers and their communities, providing them with increased opportunities to sell their goods, and increased revenue to help them weather this financial storm.

Under NAFTA, agricultural businesses were able to grow their exports by 450 percent. Every $1 billion of agricultural exports generates $1.27 billion in business activity and supports 8,000 jobs..

Agricultural trade with Mexico and Canada supports 17,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. Moreover, a large portion of Pennsylvania’s preserves and specialty foods, representing over $100 million, are exported to Mexico and Canada. Strengthening access to these markets and providing the possibility of more dairy exports is particularly critical to farmers.

Congress should seize this opportunity to enhance America’s agricultural trade. Whatever is going to happen with China is still uncertain, so, let’s do something immediately to help farmers export products to Mexico and Canada. Congress has the ability to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and could do so almost immediately.

To paraphrase an old saying, ‘There is a way. All we need is the will.’

Wayne Campbell is president of the Pennsylvania State Grange.

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