The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been a long process, but pig farmer Jim Heimerl of Jamestown, Ohio, believes America has won a great opportunity with its neighbors in the north and south.
Heimerl, former president of the National Pork Producers Council and a pig farmer of 45 years, has witnessed firsthand the tireless effort that went into the enactment of USMCA. The ability to keep U.S. borders open to two of its largest export markets is a huge opportunity, he said in a statement.
USMCA’s enactment on Wednesday is a critical step forward for the U.S. meat and poultry industry that exports $5.5 billion annually to Canada and Mexico.
“This agreement is critical to meat and poultry processors and the millions of U.S. farmers, ranchers, allied manufacturers and transportation companies in the food supply chain,” North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) president and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a statement.
Under the previous agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. meat and poultry exports to Mexico and Canada flourished as import duties were dropped and non-scientific barriers to trade were significantly reduced, the Meat Institute said in a statement. The North American market for the meat and poultry industry is nearly completely integrated, which is essential to its long-term viability.
“Farmers are already in a devastating market today and cannot afford added tariffs,” Heimerl said. “Thanks to the enactment of USMCA, farmers will greatly benefit from the preservation of zero-tariff pork trade in North America.”
Canada and Mexico are among the top four destinations for both U.S. beef and pork. The Meat Institute reports since NAFTA’s entry into force in 1994, U.S. beef exports to Canada and Mexico grew from $656 million to more than $1.75 billion in 2019, while pork exports increased in value from $322 million to more than $2 billion during that same time period. In terms of volume, Canada and Mexico imported nearly 22% of total U.S. beef exports and 30% of all U.S. pork exports in 2019.
For the state of Nebraska, beef cattle production is the No. 1 industry, resulting in a $13.8 billion economic impact in 2018. USMCA helps keep the highly successful framework for U.S. beef trade in place, Nebraska Cattlemen said in a release.
"Nebraska leads the nation in commercial red meat production and depends on reliable, unrestricted access to our two closest trading partners, which totaled over $250 million worth of beef exports from Nebraska last year. We commend the leadership of our elected officials in this effort," Ken Herz, Nebraska Cattlemen president, said in a release.
In addition to trade opportunities, Heimerl believes the labor benefits of USMCA will also be very positive in the long run.
“Here in the U.S., we’re in a deficit work force—and agriculture needs qualified labor on-farm. USMCA has created a huge influx of TN visas and a positive outlook for qualified labor in the workforce,” he said.