Seven former ag secretaries call for ratification of the deal
By Diego Flammini
Multiple past secretaries of agriculture recently showed bipartisan support for an important trade deal.
Former Secretaries John Block (who served during President Reagan’s administration), Dan Glickman (Clinton) and Tom Vilsack (Obama) joined current Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday to ask Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Other former Agriculture Secretaries Ann Veneman (W. Bush), Mike Johanns (W. Bush) and Ed Shafer (W. Bush) provided support via a letter signed a joint letter with the above-mentioned individuals.
Prior to NAFTA, the USMCA’s predecessor, U.S. ag exports to Canada and Mexico totaled about US$9 billion annually. NAFTA helped bring that number up to US$40 billion of ag exports in 2018.
Keeping ag trade channels open with Canada and Mexico is imperative to the industry’s success, the secretaries said.
“I think if there is any one issue upon which all Secretaries of Agriculture can agree, it’s the importance to American agriculture of trade,” Vilsack, the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said during a press conference with Secretaries Perdue, Block and Glickman.
About 30 percent of all U.S. farm products end up in an export market, Vilsack added.
“What we’re promoting today is so vital and so important,” Block said. “With Canada and Mexico, we need to get this agreement approved. Both parties are standing shoulder to shoulder, saying to Congress, ‘Go ahead and pass this legislation.’”
Ag industry representatives are pleased with the bipartisan support for the USMCA.
Having Democrats and Republicans alike asking Congress for the same thing means the trade agreement is good for all, said Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture.
“Members of both political parties know it makes sense to do business with our neighbors,” he said in a Sept. 20 statement. “Our families produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world. It is beyond time to pass the USMCA and secure market access with two of our largest trading partners.”
Farms.com has reached out to U.S. ag organizations and individual farmers for comment.
From left: Agriculture Secretaries Block, Perdue, Vilsack and Glickman.