October 11,2019

Grassley op-ed: Farm communities need USMCA

Farm communities need USMCA

By Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa 

Farming is about community. It always has been. From the earliest known farming communities in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to the modern farms punctuating the landscape of Rural America, people have worked together for centuries to cultivate the crops that feed the world.

In 1927, my father purchased a plot of land in New Hartford, Iowa. One year later, he founded the Grassley family farm. In the early days of the farm, our family shared a threshing machine with several other farm families in the community. We would take turns traveling to each other’s farms to help with harvesting. Afterward, we’d all sit down and share a meal together. Today, my son Robin, my grandson Pat, my wife Barbara and I operate our family farm. It’s truly a family affair and everyone plays a role on the farm. We even have frequent visits from my five-year-old great-grandson, Chance, who loves to ride on the tractor.

A lot of things have changed over the years, but the sense of community and togetherness among farmers never has. It’s worth fighting for. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to help my farming community in New Hartford and every farm family in the country by getting Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USMCA is a significant victory for our nation’s family farmers. The agreement solidifies and expands trade with our two most important agricultural trading partners: Canada and Mexico, at a time when family farmers nationwide have been struggling due to trade uncertainties, natural disasters and decreasing commodity prices.  

Trade with Mexico and Canada accounts for nearly one-third of U.S. agricultural exports and supports more than 300,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that exports to our North American neighbors totaled $40 billion in 2018. The American Farm Bureau Federation highlights that American agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $39 billion in 2017.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the USMCA will increase U.S. food and agricultural exports by more than $2 billion. Additionally, USMCA would maintain our existing tariff-free access to the Mexican and Canadian markets, while also increasing tariff-free access for key farm products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs. Passing the USMCA will also provide much-needed security for North American trade.

In my home state of Iowa, the $10 billion worth of agricultural products we export to Mexico and Canada each year support more than 86,000 jobs. Canada is Iowa’s largest trading partner. It accounts for more than 30 percent of our state’s exported goods. Mexico is second, accounting for approximately 17 percent of our exports. In fact, Mexico is Iowa’s top corn customer, buying more than $3 billion of it each year. A few of our other top agricultural industries – pork, dairy and soybeans – export more than roughly $2 billion each from Iowa to Canada and Mexico annually.

The truth is that the majority of Americans will never understand what it’s like to be part of a farming community. They’ll never experience the peace that comes from walking through the fields as the sun rises. They’ll never experience the pain of watching your hard work and financial future being swept away by floods, tornadoes or hurricanes. They won’t feel the anxiety that accompanies the rise and fall of commodity prices or the real-life consequences that come with trade disruptions. However, everyone can understand why it’s critical to approve an agreement that provides opportunity and security to a community of Americans that does so much for this nation.

After months of positive discussions in Congress, now is the time for action. We must move forward with the USMCA.

My life and my congressional service have been shaped by the farming community in New Hartford, Iowa and the stories of farmers throughout my state and the country. They taught me to be strong, resilient and loyal. Those qualities have motivated my efforts to secure passage of the USMCA and I’ll continue to urge members of Congress to ratify this modern agreement in the coming weeks. The USMCA is too important to our farming communities, to Rural America and the prosperity of the United States to stand still.