President Trump Signs USMCA During White House Ceremony

President Donald Trump Wednesday signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. During a White House ceremony, Trump stated USCMA is, “the largest, most significant, modern and balanced trade agreement in history.” USMCA replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal Trump considered “outdated” and “terrible.” Mexico approved and signed the agreement last year. Legislation to approve the agreement in Canada was announced this week. Canada seems likely to approve the agreement within the next month, following its legislative process. Canada and Mexico are top trading partners for United States agriculture. President Trump says USMCA is “a monumental win for American farmers and ranchers, improving access to Canadian and Mexican markets.” The agreement protects current market conditions between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and includes an estimated $2.2 billion increase in U.S. agricultural exports. The agreement is expected to grow annual dairy exports by nearly $315 million. Trump promised dairy farmers improved trade with Canada when announcing his intention to upgrade NAFTA.

Secretary Perdue: USMCA Critical for U.S. Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday proclaimed, “Today is a good day for American agriculture,” referring to President Donald Trump’s signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Perdue says USMCA”shows the rest of the world the United States is open for business,” adding the agreement is critical for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Canada and Mexico are the first and second-largest export markets for United States food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion in farm exports in 2018. Those exports, according to the Department of Agriculture, support more than 325,000 American jobs. All food and agricultural products that have zero tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement will remain at zero tariffs. Key provisions, Perdue says, include increasing dairy market access, along with updates to biotechnology rules, geographical indications, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and increased market access for poultry, eggs and wheat, along with agreements to avoid technical trade barriers for wine and spirits.

Agriculture Groups Respond to USMCA Signing

Agriculture groups applaud President Donald Trump for signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “There is definitely increased optimism on farms and ranches across America and we’re grateful for the advances, but we’re also realists eager to see results.” American Soybean Association President Bill Gordon attended the signing ceremony Wednesday. Gordon states, “We reiterate our hearty thanks to both houses of Congress, the President, and their staff who worked together to make this important deal happen.” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston also attended, and points out USMCA follows the new WOTUS rule, a Phase One trade agreement with China, and changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. Houston says, “it’s easy to see that 2020 is off to a truly historic start for U.S. beef producers.” Finally, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson stated that while USMCA is a big step forward, “it should be a floor for future trade deals, not a ceiling.”

Trump Administration Trade Agenda Turning to EU, India

The Trump administration’s focus on trade continues, as officials work towards more trade agreements. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue traveled to the European Union to discuss a potential trade deal this week, and talks are ongoing to reach a tentative agreement with India. Perdue maintains that “Agriculture needs to be included in a trade deal” with the European Union. Specifically, Perdue told reporters Wednesday from Rome he wants the EU to recognize the U.S. method of sanitizing chicken products, along with addressing geographic indicators and EU objections to biotechnology. Meanwhile, Politico reports U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to travel to New Delhi, India, early next month, for potential trade talks with India’s Commerce Minister. President Donald Trump revoked trade benefits for India last year that cuts duties on products from developing nations. India is seeking to regain those benefits, while the U.S. wants equivalent access for U.S. agricultural products in any tentative trade deal.

NASDA Submits Hemp Program Comments to USDA

This week, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture submitted final comments on federal hemp production guidelines. The comments submitted to the Department of Agriculture highlight potential changes to the Domestic Hemp Production Program interim final rule. NASDA CEO  Barb Glenn says, “We know at least 30 states will have to revise their own laws in order to comply with the requirements of the rule,” adding that without some flexibility, the rule could create competitive differences between states. NASDA recommends USDA extends the number of days in the testing window to within 15 to 30 days of harvest, along with dropping the requirement for states to use a Drug Enforcement Administration registered laboratory. Additionally, the organization suggests USDA create a tier-based approach for sampling and testing that would allow for greater flexibility for state regulators, set the negligence threshold for THC at one percent, and allow for states to develop mitigation plans, among other recommendations. The comment period closed Wednesday.

NMPF: Congress Needs to Pass DAIRY PRIDE Act for Consumers

The National Milk Producers Federation says Congress needs to pass the DAIRY PRIDE Act soon to ensure the Food and Drug Administration does its job. The DAIRY PRIDE Act would designate foods that make an inaccurate claim about milk contents as “misbranded” and subject to enforcement of labeling rules. It would require FDA to issue guidance for federal enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days of its passage, and require FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment. NMPF Executive Vice President Tom Balmer told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee Wednesday, “By calling these products “milk,” they are clearly seeking to trade on the health halo of real milk.” Balmer says the imitators aren’t nutritionally the same as milk, or the same simply by definition. The legislation would force FDA to act against plant-based imitators of milk, cheese, butter and other products that defy current FDA rules.