It is no secret that the farm economy is struggling with the worst spring planting season in my lifetime, coupled with lower grain and livestock prices. The price for a bushel of corn or soybeans alone has been cut by almost half in recent years. As farmers, we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of trying to find ways to manage the bottom line in hopes of simply breaking even again this year. However, I believe there is a solution on the trade front that would help ease the pain.
Last November, leaders of the three prominent North American countries signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a new trade deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Although this new agreement has been characterized by some as an only slightly modified version of NAFTA, there are some important aspects of the deal that would benefit American and Ohio farmers from day one. The USMCA not only locks in market opportunities previously developed with our North American neighbors, but also builds on those trade relationships in several key areas.
For example, the USMCA will provide new market access for dairy and poultry products in Canada and maintains the zero-tariff platform on all other Canadian Ag products and on all Ag products to Mexico.
Canada also agreed to treat wheat imports the same as domestic wheat for grading and pricing, while Mexico and the U.S. agreed that all grading standards for Ag products will be non-discriminatory.
This is also the first Free Trade Agreement for the U.S. that includes measures that address cooperation, information sharing and other trade rules related to biotechnology and gene editing.
Canada and Mexico are Ohio's two largest trading partners. In 2018, trade between Ohio and Canada totaled $21 billion and amounted to almost $7 billion with Mexico, signifying to Ohio farmers the importance of passing this new agreement.
The USMCA is beneficial to all Ohioans, including:
- Nearly 30,000 grain farmers, supporting 71,328 jobs
- 26,000 soybean farmers, with an economic impact of $5.3 billion
- 2,500 dairy farmers with an economic impact of $436 million
- Ohio's egg, chicken and turkey farms who create more than 14,600 jobs and contribute $412 million annually in economic impact
- 17,000 cattle farms generating $745 million annually
- The state's pork producers who support more than 13,000 jobs and generate over $800 million in economic impact
Not to mention the fact that one out of every eight jobs in Ohio is connected to our farm industry, meaning countless other Ohio workers will be positively impacted by the USMCA as well.
Ohio farmers are resilient, and they work hard to grow an abundant food supply for our communities. Congress should move quickly and ratify the USMCA, improving our ability to deliver products with ease throughout North America.