BILLINGS – Farmers for Free Trade — a bipartisan coalition supported by ag commodity groups from across the agricultural industry — has been on an 11-state, 3,500-mile RV Tour touting support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement for the past two weeks.
Retired U.S. Senator and former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus of Montana, a founder and co-chair of Farmers for Free Trade, says it’s time to set partisan politics aside and do what’s right for America’s agriculture industry.
“A bushel of barley isn’t a Republican bushel or a Democratic bushel,” said Baucus. “A steer or heifer isn’t a Republican or Democratic steer or heifer. It’s nonpartisan. It’s crazy partisan politics sometimes gets in the way it should not at all,” Baucus said.
“We’re all Americans trying to make sure our country prospers. Part of this trip because it’s bipartisan is to keep partisan politics out of it and must focus on getting the job done,” he added.
Michelle Erickson-Jones farms near Broadview and is also the past president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She says the new USMCA is important for farmers like her.
“It works on the Canadian grade grading issue that they treat it the same whether it’s U.S. origin or Canadian origin and that’s definitely important for some of our farmers on the Hi-Line,” said Erickson-Jones.
“It’s just important overall because Mexico is our number one barley market. Mexico. It’s the U.S.’s number one wheat market and so it just has some huge impacts to agriculture,” she added. “It’s important that we get it done and get it finalized and inject some stability in the markets.”
USMCA is the renegotiated trade deal between the three countries meant to replace NAFTA which Baucus says U.S. farmers and ranchers have done extremely well with.
“U.S. agriculture exports to Mexico and Canada since 2003 and during NAFTA have increased 70%,” said Baucus. “American agricultural exports to those two countries have increased 70% and add to that Montana’s agricultural exports which I think are $720 million.”
A new report by the International Trade Commission reinforces the significance of passing the new USMECA saying the new trade agreement would mean nearly $2.2 billion in U.S. agricultural exports.
Urging Congress to pass the USMCA is a top priority of Farmers for Free Trade as lawmakers return back to Washington this week following their Easter recess.
-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News