OPINION — In November, I was privileged to represent cattle producers at the U.S. International Trade Commission’s hearing on the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0.
The commissioners rarely get to hear from people who are actually affected by the trade agreements they negotiate with other countries. This was an opportunity to help them understand how their decisions could benefit or work to the detriment of a boots-on-the-ground business.
We are fortunate in Texas and the Southwest to enjoy a robust beef and cattle trade relationship with Mexico. At Santa Rosa Ranch, we frequently conduct business with our Mexican partners, selling live cattle and genetics. I know the other segments of beef production rely heavily on trade with Mexico to import cattle and export beef products.
Trade has a tremendous impact on our state economy. In 2017, almost one-sixth of U.S. beef exports came from Texas. In the same year, Texas sent more than $317 million of those beef and beef products to Mexico. Nationwide, nearly one-quarter of beef exports are the result of NAFTA, which allows for cattle and beef to be freely traded between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Because of this robust trade relationship, we are happy to know there are no significant changes in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would raise tariffs, put quotas in place or put any other restrictive policies in place that could deter trade between our three countries.
While the agreement has been signed by leaders from all three nations, it now must be approved by Congress. I encourage them to quickly ratify the updated agreement to ensure that we preserve the benefits that have been demonstrated on Texas ranches over the past 24 years.
Appearing before a commission or a committee hearing can be intimidating, but I'll tell you there's almost a calmness that comes over you when you're passionate about what you do. You want to impress upon the decision-makers, “We produce the food that's feeding the world. Please hear what I'm saying — the decisions you’re making affect my bottom-line and my livelihood!”
We must hold on to the competitive advantage we have in Canada and Mexico and we must continue to develop trade relationships with Asian countries, where our future demand truly lies.
It is our responsibility to make our elected leaders understand the urgency of aggressive trade negotiations. If we don’t, those agreements won’t be made a priority by our negotiators and by those in Congress who approve the agreements. We must tell our elected leaders that we expect them to take appropriate action to approve agreements that support a strong agriculture economy.
It's important for Congress to understand why trade matters to us, why good trade agreements like the USMCA matter to us. That's why it's important for all of us to engage, be a voice and be part of the solution. I encourage all of you to join in contacting your U.S. senators and representatives to ask them to approve USMCA.