Finally Close to Approval

Big Win for Beef

By Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

In between impeachment proceedings, exterminating the world’s most deadly terrorist and a host of other political posturing, the loooong-delayed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is expected to be in the books soon.

On Dec. 19, the House of Representatives voted 385-41 in favor of the trade agreement (more than a year after President Trump initially signed the proposed trade agreement). The Senate Finance Committee approved USMCA on Jan. 7.

“Today is years in the making,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. “Soon, the entire country will benefit as a result. I commend President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer and my colleagues in Congress for their hard work in getting to this point.

“I expect the full Senate will act soon and that final approval of USMCA is just around the corner.

USMCA replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) implemented in 1994. NAFTA was a friend to the beef industry and other commodities. But some other industries wanted more access to better markets.

According to the USMCA Fact Sheet, the trade agreement provides “expanded market access for American food and agricultural products.”

It states: “America’s dairy farmers will have new export opportunities to sell dairy products into Canada. Canada will provide new access for U.S. products, including fluid milk, cream, butter, skim milk powder, cheese and other dairy products. It will also eliminate its tariffs on whey and margarine.

“For poultry, Canada will provide new access for U.S. chicken and eggs and increase its access for turkey. Under a modernized agreement, all other tariffs on agricultural products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will remain at zero.”

After months and even years of touting the trade benefits of USMCA, leading spokespersons for regional and national beef organizations were relieved with the USMCA passage by the House of Representatives.

“This was a crucial win for all U.S. beef producers and a reassurance that U.S. beef will continue to have duty-free access to Canada and Mexico,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Jennifer Houston. “A big thank-you goes to the Trump Administration and every lawmaker who voted to approve USMCA.”

“USMCA passage is a big win for cattle feeders,” added Paul Defoor, chairman, Texas Cattle Feeders Association. “This will reassure duty-free access to Mexico and Canada and allow us to continue serving consumers at home and abroad a safe and consistent supply of affordable, quality beef.”

Ken Herz, Nebraska Cattlemen president, said trade agreements like the USMCA are critical to Nebraska’s economy. “Nebraska Cattlemen applauds the passage of USMCA,” Herz said. “Nebraska leads the nation in commercial red meat production and depends on reliable, unrestricted access to our two closest trading partners, which totaled over $250 million worth of beef exports from Nebraska last year. We commend the leadership of our elected officials in this effort.”

He added that USMCA keeps the highly successful framework for U.S. beef trade in place with the nation’s closest trading partners and brings much-needed certainty to farmers, ranchers and rural communities after a challenging year.

Matt Teagarden, CEO of the Kansas Livestock Association, agreed with Herz’s praises. “Approving USMCA sends the message to the rest of the world that we are open for business, which is good news for Kansas agriculture,” he said. “The agreement updates NAFTA to reflect our modern economy while preserving the unrestricted access for U.S. beef exports to Canada and Mexico.”

“We applaud the House of Representatives for quickly passing USMCA,” said Robert McKnight, Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). “The broad, bipartisan support underscores just how important ratification of the agreement is, especially for American ranchers who will send billions of dollars of U.S. beef to Mexico and Canada, thanks to the continuation of duty-free trade with our neighbors.”

Sen. Grassley said USMCA is a win-win. “This modernized trilateral trade agreement will open new markets for American exporters, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, grow the national economy and protect U.S. workers,” he said. “That is good news for millions of farmers, manufacturers and workers in every corner of America.”

Houston said NCBA expects the trade agreement to be approved soon, and “I urge the Senate to swiftly pass the USMCA and send it to the President’s desk.”

Learn more about USMCA at https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement/fact-sheets/strengthening.