Updated: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy comment added.
The Trump administration could drop the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in the House any day now and farmer-interest groups are putting in their two cents.
The National Farmers Union is urging additional improvements to the deal to help reduce health care costs and protect rural jobs, outlining their concerns in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“The increasing cost of health care, a top concern among NFU members, is eating into already shrinking farm revenue,” writes NFU President Roger Johnson. As written, USMCA would grant pharmaceutical companies marketing exclusivity for biologic drugs for a minimum of 10 years. If approved, this rule would prevent Congress from acting to hasten the entrance of lower-cost generic drugs to the market.
USMCA’s prescription drug provision would “limit the actions Congress can take to reduce prescription drug prices,” noted Johnson, and as such, it “must be rectified to allow for future reductions in health care costs.”
Johnson asked members of Congress to address the fact that many rural manufacturing jobs are moving to foreign markets with cheaper labor and lower environmental standards. “Labor, environment, and enforcement standards must be strengthened to help to keep jobs in rural communities,” he wrote.
The American Dairy Coalition, on the other hand, is calling for swift passage of the USMCA.
The coalition is asking the House to come to a consensus with the White House on their remaining concerns with the USMCA and expedite a vote to pass the deal. “The fragile dairy industry cannot afford to hold off and wait while more and more dairy farms continue to go out of business,” the ADC said in a media statement. “Dairy farmers continue to weather an unprecedented crisis period, suffering from low profitability due to retaliatory tariffs, low milk prices and historic rain events.”
Prompt passage of the agreement is important with the election of 2020 looming, ADC says. The votes needed to pass the USMCA, which will replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, may be lost in the election.
“Trade will be essential to reviving commodity prices and turning the tide of the deep and prolonged recession of the dairy economy,” said ADC President, Walt Moore.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy takes a different view.
"Many of our organizations pushed for changes in USMCA, beginning with restoring Country of Origin Labeling for meat. But those proposals were ignored," said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of Trade and Global Governance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "The New NAFTA does nothing to address the changes family farmers have been demanding for decades, nothing to improve farm incomes, and nothing to lift prices."