Grassley Op-ed: Celebrating Iowa’s Agricultural Past, Present and Future
By Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa
The Iowa State Fair is a celebration of agriculture and the farming families who feed and fuel the world. It is one of the oldest, largest and most well-known agricultural expositions in the United States. Approximately one million people make their way to the fairgrounds every year to gather with friends, family and neighbors and enjoy everything the fair has to offer.
Iowa’s rich agricultural history will be on full display at the fair. But this year, there’s also so much to look forward to as Congress works to pass the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), President Trump’s successfully renegotiated trade deal.
Canada and Mexico are critical trade partners, particularly for agriculture. In fact, they are the United States’ top export markets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, exports to our North American neighbors totaled a combined $40 billion in 2018. More than 28 percent of all U.S. farm and food exports went to Canada and Mexico last year, supporting more than 300,000 American jobs.
Here in Iowa, the $10 billion worth of agricultural products we export to Canada and Mexico each year support more than 86,000 jobs. Canada is Iowa’s largest trade 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.
With so much of our state’s exports on the line, it is essential that Congress passes USMCA without delay. The new trade deal will not only stabilize our current markets, such as the pork market in Mexico, but it will also increase access for several products. For example, American dairy products have been hindered in the Canadian market for years due to Canada’s supply management system. That system uses price fixing and quotas set by the Canadian government. USMCA would lower these non-tariff barriers and allow our dairy industry to expand its reach in Canada. That means our Canadian friends could make their own butter cow with Iowa-made butter.
In addition to improving access to our two largest export markets, USMCA will preserve the tariff-free treatment our products currently enjoy in the Mexican and Canadian markets. It will also strengthen rules on unfair subsidies, dumped exports, duty evasion and non-market trading practices, such as currency manipulation, which will help ensure that American workers and businesses aren’t dealt the short end of the stick.
USMCA will also be a boon for Iowa’s manufacturing industry. According to data released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Iowa exported nearly $12 billion of manufactured goods last year. That includes the various tractors and pieces of heavy equipment Iowans see on display within the fair’s exhibition halls.
There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding trade over the past year. I regularly hear from farmers, manufacturers and small business owners at my annual 99 county meetings about their concerns regarding fair trade deals, specifically with Canada and Mexico. I’ve been honest about my initial skepticism of President Trump’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA. However, USMCA will be a victory for Iowa, for Rural America and the entire nation.
I’ve had countless meetings with my Senate colleagues, conversations with the president and his Administration and even met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democrats to discuss a path forward on USMCA. In the coming weeks, I’ll continue to work to promote USMCA’s passage in Congress.
As the Iowa State Fair gets underway, I’m excited to celebrate our state’s agricultural past and traditions, and look forward to what we can achieve under a modernized North American trade deal.