ORLANDO, Fla. — American agriculture is doing everything in its power to get the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement over the finish line.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue warned the 9,000 delegates attending the 2019 Commodity Classic conference that there is a big difference between a signed agreement and one that has been implemented.
“It’s never over until it’s over, until Congress ratifies, Mexico ratifies it and Canada ratifies it,” he said.
U.S. farm groups are uniting in lending their vocal support for a pact people have dubbed NAFTA 2.0.
All of the major farm commodity groups have joined the USMCA Coalition, a collection of more than 200 companies and associations attempting to secure congressional approval of the agreement.
Jimmy Musick, past-president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, riled up farmers attending the Commodity Classic general session when he said he was tired of getting abused by Canada and Mexico on agricultural trade.
“Those countries have gotten so used to taking advantage of us they think they have the right to do that and I think it’s a shame,” he said to a thunderous round of applause.
“I thank God we have a secretary of agriculture, we’ve got some legislators and a president that’s sick and tired of it and ready to make a difference.”
Musick said the American farm economy is struggling and in dire need of good trade deal.
“What concerns me is if we’re not careful we’re going to lose the next generation and it’s really important we quit talking about these trade agreements and make them happen,” he said.
Davie Stephens, president of the American Soybean Association, said Mexico is the top buyer of U.S. soybean meal and oil and Canada is the third largest soybean meal customer.
He said the deal needs to be ratified and implemented.
Lynn Chrisp, president of the National Corn Growers Association, has taken a close look at the agreement.
“It’s a real positive. It’s an improvement. So we’re all in,” he said.
“This agreement moves the needle one step further in the fact that it removes the opportunity for some other artificial trade barriers that would be a problem and have been a problem.
Mexico is the number one buyer of U.S. corn and distiller’s grains while Canada is a top-10 buyer of corn, distiller’s grains and ethanol.
Dan Atkisson, chair of the National Sorghum Producers, said the agreement safeguards Mexico as the second biggest customer of U.S. sorghum.
“It’s an issue we can all rally behind. I think it’s an issue that agriculture can unite on,” he said.
John Lagemann, past-chair of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ ag sector board, gave the deal a thumb’s up as well.
“We’ve got so much uncertainty in agriculture and it would be very nice to kind of check that one off from a certainty perspective,” he said.
Perdue said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer deserves farmer gratitude for hashing out a beneficial agreement.
“Early on I don’t know if he could figure out if he liked us farmers or not. He kind of felt like we were kind of howling wolf a lot about the challenges and threats,” he said.
But at the end of the day he showed that he understood the importance of agriculture to the U.S. economy.
“He was a stalwart at the end of the USMCA agreement, hanging in tough for agriculture,” said Perdue.