In the effort to pile on numbers supporting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, 950 agricultural groups and businesses sent a letter to leadership and members of Congress on Tuesday calling on lawmakers to quickly consider and ratify the agreement.
The timing of the letter coincided with a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on trade early Tuesday as well.
The agricultural letter noted the organizations represent all levels and segments of the U.S. agriculture and food value chain. The letter stated, "USMCA will benefit the U.S. agriculture and food industry while providing consumers a more abundant supply of high-quality, safe food at affordable prices."
The agricultural groups pointed out food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico grew from $9 billion in 1993 to nearly $40 billion in 2018 under NAFTA. The USMCA is expected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by an additional $2.2 billion.
"USMCA further strengthens U.S. food and agricultural trade by enhancing standards for biotechnology; reducing the use of trade-distorting policies; establishing modern, science-based sanitary and phytosanitary standards; reinforcing disciplines for science-based SPS measures; improving grading standards and services; facilitating the marketing of food and agricultural products; and strengthening safeguards for commonly used food names," the letter stated. "These advances help provide certainty in the North American market, which is essential to the success of American agriculture and retailers."
So the undersigning 950 groups called on swift ratification of the new trade deal.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Tuesday he had a good meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and leadership of the House Ways & Means Committee about ratifying the trade deal.
However, the Trump Administration has not submitted the text of the trade agreement to Congress yet for approval.
"The House acts first but the House can't act until the president gets it up here," Grassley said. He added, "Otherwise I'd say the meeting was a very positive meeting. The fact is they can't tell us anything because the White House hasn't started to send it up, on when it would be."
Grassley said he couldn’t say when the trade agreement will be sent to Congress.
The White House must submit the final text of the legislation 30 days before the bill is formally introduced. The committees can hold mock markups if they choose, as well has hearings, to communicate any concerns that come up from lawmakers.
After the 30 days is up, the House Ways and Means Committee, and Grassley's Finance Committee, can take up to 45 days to report the bill to the floor. The House must vote on it then send the bill to the Senate. Senate Finance can then take up to 15 days in session to vote on the House bill, before sending it to the Senate floor.
At the time frame we're at now, Grassley could not say whether the USMCA could be approved because lawmakers take a break in August.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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