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Trade train: Gov. Parson pushes for USMCA ratification

Congressman Cleaver says, “I'm doing everything I can do to get to yes.”

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

September 12, 2019

3 Min Read
Gov. Mike Parson talks with Marshall City Mayor Julie Schwetz
ALL ABOARD: Gov. Mike Parson talks with Marshall City Mayor Julie Schwetz before boarding KCS Southern Belle for a grain inspection trip. He invited Congressman Emanuel Cleaver along to talk trade and USMCA.

When it comes to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson admits to being worried for his state. “If you can't get this one done,” he said, “it has to worry us all.”

Parson shared his concern with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO5) during a train ride. It was part of Missouri's 5th Congressional District Grain Elevator Inspection Trip on the Kansas City Southern Railroad Southern Belle. Parson told the congressman just how important the USMCA is for Missouri.

“When you look at Mexico and Canada, as a matter of fact, of all the other trade partners we have in the world those two are our biggest ones,” Parson said. “We need to get a good deal, a fair deal.”

Missouri exports $7.8 billion to those two countries from transportation equipment to agricultural products. Of that, in 2017, $5.2 billion was exported to Canada. Agriculture products to Canada and Mexico totaled $452 million, with the bulk coming from grain.

With so much at stake Missouri farmers want action.

Farmers respond

Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers originates soybeans out of a seven-county area in west central Missouri. Last year, the cooperative exported 88% of its soybeans to Mexico. “They are our number one customer,” Beau Heppler, general manager for locally owned farmer cooperative out of Richmond, Mo., said. “We need the USMCA ratified. We need to have clarity for this year’s grain crop.”

Heppler was part of a round table discussion that greeted the governor and congressman at Union Station in Kansas City. Joining him were individuals representing railroad, farming, construction and even Hallmark Cards. All urged Cleaver to put pressure on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to bring USMCA to the floor.

“We just need her to bring it to a vote,” said Billy Thiel, a corn grower from Marshall. He shared the uncertainty without the USMCA in place is hurting farmers. “We need something now.”

Cleaver said he is “trying to be” a yes vote. “I think it would be ignorant for anybody based on party affiliation to stand against any trade agreement. I have to consider how it impacts the people in my district.”

Mike Parson (left) along with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (center) and Joe Reardon, President and CEO Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce

Congressman concern

However, Cleaver still has issues with the framing of the USMCA, particularly in the area of minimum wage.

Cleaver said while the deal set a minimum wage, the minimum wage is also considered an average wage. “So, if the average wage just has to be $5 an hour from participating countries, if Mexico is paying $3.50 and the United States is paying $18.50, I think it's a disservice to the workers in Mexico.” He wants that portion “straightened out.”

Parson has a different take on the issue. “I think above everything, you have to put our country and our state first before we do anything on that. And I think the congressman will do that at the end of the day.”

Cleaver offered a ray of hope for farmers in attendance who want USMCA ratified. “My goal is to be in a position to support the agreement,” he said. “And I'm doing everything I can do to get to yes.”

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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