On Monday’s AgriTalk, Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), said the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has support across agriculture and should be an easy decision for Congress to finalize.
“If you're an American legislator, there's absolutely no reason to be against this,” Conner said. “Farmers need this. And these are tough, tough times, probably the toughest times on the American farm that we've seen since the mid-80s. They need these additional markets that USMCA and other things create.”
Conner has been at the NCFC for 10 years. Previously he was Deputy Secretary for the USDA in the George W. Bush administration, and in all he has served more than 25 years in national and state government.
Pulling from his decades of experience, Conner shared his insights on USMCA, future trade agreements with the European Union and Japan, and what all of this means for agriculture.
Conner said USMCA will provide better market opportunities for agriculture in important ways.
“This new agreement is really an agreement that is all about benefiting the United States,” he said. “This agreement resolves those (previous concessions) and breaks through the barriers of dairy, poultry, biotechnology and a lot of other things that are critical to American agriculture where we've had problems.”
As a particular example of how this will improve U.S. agricultural trade, Conner points to wheat.
“Any kind of wheat that we shipped to Canada, it almost immediately gets graded as feed wheat. Therefore, it’s subject to lower prices and it's a trade barrier,” he said. “Yet it has been in place for a long time and NAFTA did not fix that. The new USMCA I think will move the ball forward and put us on a path where they will treat our wheat the same as they do their own wheat in Canada. And that's always been our goal.”
He also noted that July 4 is shaping up to be the next deadline for USMCA to move ahead.
“We are in a 30-day counting period right now where the administration has sent up what they call their statement of administrative action. And that's basically to alert Congress that the legislation implementing USMCA is coming and coming quickly. And so that 30 days isn’t necessarily on the calendar clock, but it expires here around the Fourth of July.”
After that period, he says Congress has 60 legislative days to act.
“It's our hope that Congress will act and as American agriculture, we are united in trying to persuade Congress to adopt this because this new agreement is only a benefit to the United States,” he said.
According to Conner, now is the time to get USMCA finalized.
“I don't think there will be a USMCA if we don't get this thing done by the end of the year or certainly very early in 2020. As we get deep into a presidential election run, Congress is just not going to do anything as highly controversial as what USMCA is, and so we've got a few months window here to get this done,” he said.
Conner also discussed developing trade with the European Union and Japan, and he shared his impression of how important agriculture is to the Trump administration. Listen to the full interview for more: