NPPC Campaigns for USMCA

'It's Pork O'Clock Somewhere' as Producers Get Antsy Over Trade Deal

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USCMA) continues to await congressional action. The National Pork Producers Council is among the groups launching initiatives to get Congress to act on the trade deal before the end of 2019. Mexico and Canada combined account for more than 30% of pork sales. (DTN file image)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The National Pork Producer Council is starting another campaign to get Congress to pass the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement before the end of the year.

Nick Giordano, NPPC's vice president and counsel for global government affairs, told DTN NPPC made a judgement last summer to push hard for Congress to complete the trade deal before the end of 2019. Right now, hog farmers "are getting antsy" that negotiations between House Democrats and the Trump administration could carry into 2020.

"Our best judgement was the deal would come up around Thanksgiving or in December," Giordano said. "We're still very hopeful we get that vote before the end of the year." He added, "Our producers want the certainty of continued North American trade," Giordano said. "They saw the impact of punitive tariffs. It really tied them in knots and it was a huge financial problem for the industry. We want that certainty and we want that vote this year."

Giordano added that NPPC members want a vote this year, but also want to see the deal pass by a robust margin. "We want to see support for trade."

The NPPC campaign is somewhat lighthearted, "It's Pork O'Clock Somewhere" and highlights different meals in Canada and Mexico from pulled pork poutine in Canada to tacos el pastor in Mexico, as well as BBQ pork sandwiches in the U.S.

"It's just kind of the next stage of our overall campaign," Giordano said. "USMCA is something NPPC has always been in support of, even when the Mexican metal tariffs were in place. That's how valuable the Mexican market is to us."

Talks continue both internally and internationally as Democratic leaders seek more assurances on labor and environmental enforcement, especially in Mexico. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also hosted a handful of Democratic congressmen on Wednesday, including Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who would shepherd the trade pact through the House. While Mexico has already ratified USMCA, Canada is waiting for the U.S. with the possibility of its parliament voting basically in concert with Congress.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also this week has been leading a trade mission with more than 100 agricultural and government people to Mexico. Perdue's Twitter feed shows him with Mexico's agriculture minister championing ties with the National Football League as well, which has a game scheduled in Mexico City later this month.

Supporters of the trade in Congress, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have cautioned that allowing USMCA to carry into 2020 would tie up the trade deal in presidential politics. Congress would be less likely to take a vote until after the presidential election is settled. While time is ticking away, the House is focusing much of its attention on impeachment proceedings and also has to resolve budget and appropriations bills in the coming weeks as well.

Agricultural groups have largely been at the forefront of supporting the USCMA, partly because agricultural commodities have been among the products most frequently hit with tariffs during trade disputes in the Trump administration.

A year ago, Mexico had 20% tariffs on U.S. pork that effectively translated into taking $12 off every hog sold by farmers. President Donald Trump removed steel and aluminum tariffs against Mexico and Canada back in May, prompting Mexico to lift its tariffs as well.

"Pork producers are in a much better shape than they were this time last year," Giordano said. "It's not a panacea for pork producers, but they are a helluva lot better off than they were this time last year."

The U.S. Meat Export Federation noted that pork exports to Mexico have rebounded since Mexico removed its tariffs in May, but pork sales to Mexico have not recovered to their record pre-tariff levels of 2017. Through the first nine months of 2019, pork exports to Mexico were down 10% in volume and 9% in value with $919.4 million in sales of pork and variety meats.

Combined, the North American market of Mexico and Canada make up about just under 31% of pork exports and larger in sales than to Japan, the largest single sales market for U.S. pork.

The NPPC campaign information can be found at https://www.porkoclock.org/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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Chris Clayton