Pence stresses USMCA importance for dairy at trade talks in Wisconsin

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

"Every day that passes without ratifying USMCA is another day that the US dairy industry risks losing valuable marketshare." Pic: FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative
"Every day that passes without ratifying USMCA is another day that the US dairy industry risks losing valuable marketshare." Pic: FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative

Related tags Trade USMCA Dairy farmers tariff

Vice President Mike Pence visited Wisconsin last week to discuss the pending US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) and engage with leaders in dairy and other agriculture industries.

Pence stopped at J&D Manufacturing in Eau Claire, WI last week. Along with Wayne Gajewski, board member and dairy farmer with the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, he participated in a roundtable discussion about the current state of US trade.

Ahead of the Wisconsin meeting Pence tweeted that he hoped to “talk about how the USMCA puts American workers and American job creators first.”

“American workers and job creators need Congress to ratify the USMCA this year. The USMCA will give American businesses like J&D the level playing field they need to compete and win,”​ he said in another tweet.

The USMCA was introduced in December to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but has yet to be passed by Congress.

During the talks, Pence urged the audience to contact their representatives in Congress to voice their support for the USMCA, which will allow US dairy greater access to the Canadian market and easier trade with Mexico.

Gajewski said, “Trade agreements have proven to be very important for US dairy, which is why it is imperative to pass the USMCA. Every day that passes without ratifying USMCA is another day that the US dairy industry risks losing valuable marketshare."

Jeff Lyon, general manager for FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, said, “Trade is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to US milk prices, and the strong trade relationships that have been built over time are hanging in the balance as the USMCA waits to be passed by Congress.”

“We appreciate Vice President Mike Pence for his words today focused on the value that USMCA provides to US dairy, and look forward to its swift passage soon.”

Lifting the steel barrier

Last Friday, President Donald Trump announced Mexico and Canada have agreed to lift tariffs on metal imports from the US, which has been a year-long battle for the steel and aluminum industries across North America.

“I’m pleased to announce that we just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico, and we’ll be selling our product into those countries without the imposition of tariffs or major tariffs. As you know, Canada has been for years … charging us extremely high tariffs. As much as 285% or more for our agricultural products, which is an absolute barrier ... So that deal is going to be a fantastic deal for our country and hopefully Congress will approve the USMCA quickly,”​ Trump said.

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative weighed in on the decision and what it might mean for dairy, saying it, “applauds the end of Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada. We are eager to see Mexico respond by dropping their tariffs on US dairy products and restore trade with our number one export market.”

“This is a step in the right direction, especially as Congress considers USMCA. Dairy farmers are eager to see additional progress made on these trade agreements, including the passage of USMCA. Now that the tariffs are no longer in place, Congress can remove that political barrier and move forward with approving this trade agreement.”

Brody Stapel, president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, said, “This is certainly good news for our dairy farmers and processors. Ending these tariffs will remove a roadblock to free and fair trade with two important partners, particularly Mexico, which is by far the biggest buyer of our dairy products.”

“We hope this also signals that the proposed USMCA trade pact between the countries will get the full support of Congress. That deal is critical to the long-term success of the US dairy community, so we cannot stress enough the importance of our lawmakers in both parties getting behind USMCA as soon as possible.”

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