By Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst
Our state leads the nation in pork production. In fact, Iowa pork exports account for approximately $2 billion annually. That’s roughly 30 percent of total U.S. pork export revenue, which totals more than $6 billion each year.
Mexico and Canada are two of America’s top pork customers, and most importantly to our fellow Iowans, these two countries are our state’s number one pork customers. Together, our neighbors to the north and south account for 40 percent of U.S. pork exports – that amounts to more than 980,000 metric tons of pork products.
Passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is imperative to the health and prosperity of the pork industry in Iowa and nationwide. Not only will this new trade agreement maintain our current trade relationships, it will solidify market access for our pork producers and help alleviate some of the major challenges facing the industry over the past several years.
Due in large part to the Mexican retaliation against the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, Mexico’s purchases of U.S. pork dropped 13 percent last year. We made it clear that these tariffs created uncertainty and jeopardized a critical market for Iowa’s pork producers. Now that the U.S. tariffs and Mexican retaliation have been lifted, pork exports to our southern neighbor are rebounding. But uncertainty still remains.
Nationally, pork producers have suffered under the uncertainty of our future trading relationships with China and Japan, labor shortages caused by an aging workforce and falling birth rates, disease and access to export markets.
These problems are particularly poignant in Iowa. Many of our pork processing plants are located in the same geographic location, which makes it difficult for producers to find enough laborers. Disease is a huge risk to Iowa pork producers, mainly due to the large amount of swine in the state. Twelve counties in Iowa make the top 20 list of pork-producing counties in the nation and we have nearly 23 million total swine throughout Iowa. Any outbreak of disease has the potential to devastate Iowa’s pork industry and significantly impact the overall state economy. When it comes to export market access, maintaining relationships with Mexico and Canada are imperative.
The USMCA will address these challenges and provide increased peace-of-mind to our pork producers. The deal will maintain access to the TN visa, which is the quickest route to obtaining a U.S. work visa. That allows legal, international laborers to help with the pork industry’s labor shortages. The USMCA establishes new and enforceable rules to ensure that Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures are science-based and developed and implemented in a transparent and non-discriminatory way. The trade deal also maintains tariff-free access to Mexican and Canadian markets, which will ensure that Iowa, and all U.S., pork producers can rest easy knowing they will still have their top two export markets.
President Trump and his administration have worked hard to secure a better trade deal that would tear down non-tariff trade barriers for American agriculture as well as restore U.S. manufacturing jobs, grow American wages, protect our intellectual property and make our trade deals more fair overall for our nation.
The Trump administration has done its part to negotiate a strong deal. Now it’s time for Congress to ratify the USMCA. We encourage our colleagues in the House to work quickly and efficiently to pass this important trade agreement so we can deliver a decisive victory for Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers, automakers and small businesses.
The USMCA will bring home the bacon for pork producers in Iowa and across the country. Let’s get this trade deal across the finish line as soon as possible.