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Trade Matters To Nebraska

September 15, 2018

This week I had the pleasure of attending Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, an annual event which reminds us of the importance of agriculture to Nebraska’s economy. Vendors come from all over to display new types of equipment and technologies which increase the efficiency and productivity of our agricultural sector and allow us to feed much of the world outside our borders.

While I was there, I stopped by the Nebraska Farm Bureau exhibit which featured a very simple banner stating, “Trade Matters To Nebraska.” Among its signatories were the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska State Dairy Association, and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association, to name a few. As a lifelong supporter of fair and open trade, I was honored to add my name to the list.

Our agricultural producers and the many people involved both upstream and downstream of them understand we produce a great deal more food than we ourselves can consume. This is the nexus between agriculture and trade. Simply put, without access to international markets our crops will go unconsumed, commodity prices will falter, and economies largely dependent on agriculture, like that of Nebraska, will suffer.

For this reason, we’re beginning to see turbulence in the commodity markets brought on by uncertainty in our trade relationships, but there is reason for optimism. From day one, President Trump has made clear his desire to measurably improve our position with our trading partners. NAFTA has done much to benefit our rural economy, but there are many ways in which this trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico can be further built upon.

President Trump has already outlined an agreement with Mexico which includes boosting North American manufacturing, particularly of auto parts, and increasing salaries for Mexican auto workers, which will make our manufacturers more competitive and improve labor standards in Mexico. These points may seem obscure and unrelated to main stream America, but they represent substantial progress once thought impossible. The next step is to work out the differences which are preventing Canada from signing the agreement.

As one of our largest trading partners, it is very important for Canada to sign the replacement for NAFTA and maintain its status as a three-party agreement. However, Canada’s protection of its dairy producers and refusal to allow U.S. imports is one of several major sticking points. In fact, Canada’s use of import restrictions and price controls is more reminiscent of a command economy, such as China’s, than that of a western country.

At the end of August, the administration notified Congress of its intent to sign an agreement including both Canada and Mexico and submit it for approval within the following 30 days. With this time frame the new agreement will hopefully be considered before Congress adjourns for the holidays to give producers and consumers throughout North America the certainty they deserve. Having traveled to both Mexico City and Montreal to demonstrate congressional support for improving NAFTA and increasing trade amongst our three countries, I’m optimistic we can make the progress necessary to finalize an agreement soon.

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