WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the benefits that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would have for farmers, ranchers, and the U.S. economy. Thune called upon House Democrats to commit to taking up and passing USMCA without further delay.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I spent a lot of time talking to South Dakota farmers over the August break.
“And I can tell you that if there’s one thing on farmers’ minds right now, it’s trade.
“Farmers and ranchers have had a rough few years – low commodity and livestock prices, natural disasters, and protracted trade disputes have left our agriculture economy trailing behind our economy as a whole.
“And as farmers emphasized to me during August, one of the biggest things we can do to help our agriculture economy is to implement trade agreements that benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“The United States is currently involved in trade negotiations on multiple fronts – with the European Union, with China, with Japan and other Asian-Pacific countries.
“Like many farmers and ranchers, I support the president’s goal of addressing trade imbalances and securing more favorable conditions for American products abroad.
“But we need to conclude these agreements as soon as possible.
“The longer negotiations drag on, the tougher the situation for farmers, who face retaliatory tariffs as well as a lot of uncertainty about what markets are going to look like.
“We’ve had some recent successes – in August the administration announced a deal to increase U.S. beef sales to Europe.
“And in May the administration announced a deal with Japan to remove all remaining age restrictions on U.S. beef, giving U.S. ranchers full access to the Japanese market for the first time in more than a decade.
“But that’s just a tiny fraction of what needs to get done on the trade front when it comes to agriculture.
“And every time I speak with the president and his administration, I emphasize what South Dakota farmers have told me: We need to conclude negotiations on the various trade deals we’re working on. And we need to do it now.
“We need to open new markets, expand existing ones, and give farmers and ranchers certainty about what markets are going to look like.
“While we’re still in negotiations on a number of agreements, one deal that we don’t need to wait for is the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement.
“This agreement has already been fully negotiated by our three countries, and Congress can take it up at any point.
“The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a clear and significant win for our farmers and ranchers.
“Canada and Mexico are the number-one and number-two export markets for American food and agricultural products.
“This agreement will preserve and expand farmers’ access to these critical markets and give farmers certainty about what these markets will look like long-term.
“I’m particularly pleased with the improvements the agreement makes for U.S. dairy producers.
“South Dakota has experienced a massive dairy expansion over the past few years, and this agreement will benefit U.S. dairy producers by substantially expanding market access in Canada, where U.S. dairy sales have been restricted.
“The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the agreement will boost U.S. dairy exports by more than $277 million.
“The agreement will also expand market access for U.S. poultry and egg producers.
“And it will make it easier for U.S. producers to export wheat to Canada.
“And of course, while I’ve been talking a lot about farmers, the benefits of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will not be limited to the agriculture industry.
“Virtually every sector of our economy will benefit from this agreement – from manufacturing to digital services to the automotive industry.
“It will create 176,000 new U.S. jobs, grow our economy, and raise wages for workers.
“Mr. President, Republicans in the Senate are ready to consider the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We’re just waiting for House Democrats to stop threatening to oppose the agreement and to show a willingness to put it to an up or down vote.
“The administration has made addressing Democrats’ concerns a priority throughout the negotiation process, and it seems to me that if you are a Democrat who is unhappy with the status quo, voting for USMCA is the best way to fix it.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that Democrats appear to be working with the administration to reach a resolution on this agreement.
“And I hope they will continue to work with the White House to bring this agreement to a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as possible.
“America’s farmers and ranchers need the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“While it won’t be a cure-all for the problems facing farm country, it will be a significant step forward.
“Congress should pass this agreement as soon as possible and allow farmers, ranchers, and the rest of the American economy to start realizing the benefits.”