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Marlyn Jorgensen

Marlyn Jorgensen

Iowa farmers know free trade is imperative to the growth of Iowa’s economy. In particular, tariff-free trade with America’s neighbors to the north and south is crucial to Iowa’s agriculture-based economy. Mexico and Canada are Iowa’s two largest trading partners, as 31% of our exports go to Canada and 17% of our exports go to Mexico each year.

With more than $6 billion in exports to Canada and Mexico in 2017, trade with just these two countries accounted for nearly half of total state exports. On top of being essential export markets, 130,000 Iowa jobs are supported by free trade with Mexico and Canada made possible by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Without trade protections like NAFTA, goods exported from Iowa could face an average tariff rate of 10-15%, meaning a possible $1.37 billion to $2.05 billion trade tax increase on exports.

Since NAFTA was enacted, U.S. soybean exports to Mexico have quadrupled, and that country is now the second-largest export market for U.S. soybeans. NAFTA also has led to Iowa becoming the second-largest agricultural export state in the U.S. and we rank first in pork, corn, and grain product exports.

NAFTA has been crucial to Iowa’s economic growth for more than two decades, but the agreement did need to be updated. The Unites States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is the modernized, updated version of NAFTA. The USMCA maintains tariff-free trade for Iowa’s agriculture products while also opening up new markets for American exports.

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Additionally, the USMCA will address the issue of market stability for farmers across the country. Soybean farmers have especially felt the sting from market instability due to trade tensions with China and other countries. Passage of the USMCA in 2019 will provide much-needed market stability to Iowa and the nation’s soybean producers.

Why is bringing stability to the Iowa soybean industry important? Iowa ranks second in soybean production nationally, with 14.5% of the nation’s soybeans coming from our state. Also, nearly 42,000 Iowa farmers grow soybeans, and the value of Iowa’s soybean crop exceeds $5 billion each year. This industry supports thousands of jobs and feeds the livestock in our state as well. The USMCA will ensure soybean production can continue at high levels for years to come.

The USMCA is waiting to be brought up for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives. All three member countries have signed the agreement, Mexico already has ratified and Canada has started the process of ratifying the agreement.

Efforts to pass the USMCA in 2019 have the support of Iowa’s agriculture and business sectors, along with Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. Furthermore, 14 House Democrats publicly endorsed USMCA last week. I am asking Rep. Abby Finkenauer respond to the calls from farmers and business owners across her district and join her fellow Democrats in calling for a vote on the USMCA in 2019.

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Marlyn Jorgensen is a farmer in Garrison and former president of the American Soybean Association.

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