Opinion: Passage of USMCA is Critical for Louisiana Agriculture

By Mike Strain D.V.M., Louisiana Comissioner of Agriculture and Forestry

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Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., praised the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which modernizes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has been in place for over 25 years.

“I’m pleased that Canada and Mexico have taken this important step in the right direction toward fair trade and increased market access for American farmers and ranchers,” Strain said. “The deal includes key provisions increasing markets for U.S. rice, wheat, dairy, poultry, eggs and many other agricultural products.

Currently, 27% of all U.S. exports go to Canada and Mexico. Of the 2018 U.S agricultural goods exported to Free Trade Agreement partners, 34% goes to Canada and 30% to Mexico. According to an independent
analysis of the U.S. International Trade Commission, full implementation of the USMCA would increase U.S. agricultural exports by $2.2B. “I’m hopeful the USMCA deal will also fuel a renewed effort to improve trade tensions with China, a major agricultural market for Louisiana behind Canada and Mexico.”

For Louisiana, the stakes could not be higher. The rebalancing and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement creating a 21st century trade deal will mean far greater access to markets and increased commerce for all of workers, farmers, ranchers, fishers and businesses through mutually beneficial, fairer, and robust trade. Further, this agreement will modernize sanitary and phytosanitary measures by establishing new and enforceable rules to ensure that these measures are science-based, and developed and implemented in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner rather than used to inhibit trade on selected commodities based on market conditions.

Louisiana exported goods valued at over $3.57 B to Canada and $9.22 B to Mexico in 2018. The top Louisiana export products to Canada and Mexico include $ 4.9 in petroleum and coal products, $2B in chemicals, $1.2B in agricultural products, and$ 720M in oil and gas.

Rice is one of Louisiana’s largest crops. More than 1/3 of the total rice crop grown in the US is exported to Mexico, accounting for over 900,000 metric tons. Additionally Mexico imports significant amounts of poultry and eggs, corn, soybeans, and cotton from Louisiana and the United States.

Additionally, the USMCA agreement protects our intellectual property including biotechnology and levels the playing field for grading of commodities and guaranteeing access to once protected markets.

From its inception in 1993 to 2018, NAFTA helped quadruple U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico from $8.9B to over $43.7B. The new and improved USMCA agreement will build from this point and further accelerate economic growth. Every $ 1B in U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 7,550 American jobs. Trade with Canada and Mexico therefore supports over 286,900 agricultural jobs in the U.S and accounting for over 9,060 jobs in Louisiana.

Another key provision includes a labor chapter to ensure that the agreement benefits American workers. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have agreed on a labor chapter that brings labor obligations into the core of the agreement and makes them fully enforceable. Further this agreement includes measures to prohibit the export of goods produced by forced labor and has the strongest provisions of any trade agreement in the protection of labor rights. Mexico has agreed to these terms and has already ratified the USMCA agreement.

Additionally the United States, Canada, and Mexico have agreed to the most advanced , most comprehensive, and highest-standard chapter on the environment of any trade agreement.

I sincerely urge the United States Congress to ratify the USMCA, eliminating tariffs on over 200 American products and providing a new and improved avenue for trade and economic growth.

Mike Strain, D.V.M.