U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of Congress passing the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement in order to provide certainty for American producers and expand market access for a vast array of American goods and services. The agreement is also important for the agriculture industry, as it would preserve and expand access to these key markets for America’s farmers and ranchers.
Full text of the speech below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, last week I came down to the floor to discuss the agriculture economy.
“While the broader economy is thriving, our nation’s farmers and ranchers are struggling.
“A combination of low commodity prices, protracted trade disputes, and natural disasters and weather-related issues have meant a tough few years for farmers.
“Nationwide, net farm income is about half of what it was in 2013.
“One of the biggest things we can do in Washington to help our nation’s farmers and ranchers is to negotiate favorable trade deals that expand existing and open new foreign markets for American agriculture products.
“That’s why I’ve been pushing for a speedy conclusion to the various trade agreements our country is currently negotiating.
“I strongly support the efforts the administration has been making to secure more favorable export markets for American products.
“We’ve made real progress in negotiations, and now we need to wrap up the various agreements we’re discussing as soon as possible so that we can give farmers and ranchers certainty about what international markets are going to look like.
“Of course, one agreement has already been wrapped up – the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement.
“This is a hugely important agreement that will boost almost every sector of the American economy, from automotive manufacturing to digital services to dairy farming.
“It will create 176,000 new jobs and increase wages for workers.
“Passing this agreement is a big priority for the agriculture industry.
“Mexico and Canada are huge importers of American agricultural products, and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement will preserve and expand American farmers’ access to these key markets.
“More than 950 food and agriculture companies and groups sent a letter to Congress urging passage.
“In my home state of South Dakota, Mexico and Canada are the number-one and number-two customers for our agriculture exports.
“Maintaining and expanding South Dakota farmers’ access to these markets is critical.
“I’m particularly pleased with the improvements the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement makes for U.S dairy producers.
“Dairy is an important and rapidly growing industry in South Dakota.
“If you drive the I-29 corridor north of Brookings, you can see firsthand the massive dairy expansion that we’ve experienced in South Dakota over the past few years.
“The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will preserve U.S. dairy farmers’ role as a key dairy supplier to Mexico.
“And it will substantially expand 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 United States-Mexico-Canada agreement also makes targeted improvements for U.S. poultry, egg, and wheat producers.
“Wheat is another important South Dakota product, and I look forward to the boost this agreement will give South Dakota wheat growers.
“Mr. President, as I said earlier, one of the most important things we can do to help the struggling agriculture economy is negotiate favorable trade agreements for U.S. producers and open new markets for American agriculture products.
“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement is ready to go, and Republicans in Congress are ready to pass it.
“Now Speaker Pelosi needs to indicate her willingness to take up the agreement in the near future.
“This agreement will provide certainty for American producers and expand market access for a vast array of American goods and services.
“It’s a win for our economy and a win for American workers.
“We should pass this agreement in the very near future.”