WOODBURN, Ore. (KOIN) — The full U.S. Senate could soon vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the Trump administration’s new version of NAFTA. The House of Representatives passed the trade deal with a 385 to 41 vote count in December, and the Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill last week.
KOIN 6 spoke with newly-elected Oregon Farm Bureau President Barb Iverson about the USMCA.
What are the most important changes, from an Oregonian perspective?
Iverson: We export about 80% of our farm goods … of that, 40% is international. So we’re really an export market in Oregon, so for ag we really need other partners to trade with. Doesn’t matter if it’s Mexico, Canada or overseas.
They had several parts of this that really help Oregon. One I like was product standard. Whoever I sell to, whether it’s a grocery chain or whoever, I usually am given a standard. For tulips it was this high, the tulip heads had to be so big, you know defects you had a certain percent you could do. That standard should apply to whoever, whether they’re a grower in Mexico or a grower in Canada. The same product standard should exist.
What are some other increased standards?
Iverson: In the United States we have something called FSMA, Food Safety Modernization Act. It’s really high standards and they’re hard to meet about food safety and how we handle the food and make sure it’s safe. These rigorous standards that we do, they should apply to anybody so when you go to the grocery store, whether the food comes from our field or from Mexico, that same food safety standard should apply and so that was brought into this agreement, so that was a good thing for Oregon farmers.
What kind of input do individual states and experts in the field get when agreements like this are drafted?
Iverson: (Early in the process) there was a nine-member group from the House of Representatives that actually came in and negotiated with the administration to look at those environmental standards, labor standards. Representative Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici were on that nine-member panel which is really amazing because Oregon really is pretty small.
The impeachment process has cast some uncertainty on the Senate’s timeline for voting on the USMCA. Is that concerning?
Iverson: I think they’ll address it. From what I’ve heard, it’s in committee. They put it out to several committees within the Senate, one of those is already finished with … I think they’ll get it through. They realize how important it is to agriculture and actually trade in general within the United States and they’re estimating on a national level that it will bring in $2 billion more in trade with those two countries. So it’s a benefit for the whole country.