Ratification of new trade deal far from assured

IFB official hopes for approval on new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement early in 2019.

By DeLoss Jahnke

When Sonny Perdue was finally confirmed as USDA Secretary on April 24, 2017, the United States seemed close to removing itself from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump called a “disaster.”

“I think within the first hour, he (Perdue) was in the president’s office saying, ‘we don’t want to just throw NAFTA out the window,’” said Mark Gebhards, Illinois Farm Bureau’s executive director of governmental affairs and commodities. “It was extremely important for him to do what he did, and thank goodness that allowed us the opportunity to renegotiate and not just throw it away and start over.”

After months of deliberations, the three NAFTA trading partners have agreed on a revised trade deal, now being called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Related: Learn more about the agreement, which IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. calls a “step in the right direction.” Read more here.

The deal will still need to be ratified by governments of the three nations, which could be easier said than done due to everything happening in Washington D.C.

Congress has 90 days to approve it.

“We’ve missed that window,” he said. “The House is gone; they left last week and will not return until after the mid-year elections. The Senate is still trying to deal with the Supreme Court confirmation.

“Realistically, we’re probably not going to get this ratified, even in lame duck.”

Gebhards said he hopes the USMCA can become official in early 2019.

As for a new farm bill, Gebhards remains optimistic.

“With the expiration, there are 39 programs that do not have baseline funding,” he said. “There is a lot of funding that’s not there as of (Sunday), so things like conservation, foreign market development, rural development, energy programs … we’ll have to see what happens.”

Despite the farm bill's expiration Sunday, crop insurance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments will continue without interruption. Farm program payments on the 2017 crop will also be paid.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.