From State Ag Departments to Congress: Our Farmers Need the USMCA

By: U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA-04), James Comer (KY-01), and John Rose (TN-06)

October 17, 2019

As former heads of our states’ agriculture departments, we understand the significance an updated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico holds for growers and producers across the country. Now in Congress, we bring invaluable experience when shaping national agriculture and trade policy.

We have worked with growers, producers, commodity groups, and governments to promote our agricultural goods. We worked to spur rural economic development, and we cultivated relationships with international trading partners. As family farmers, we remain connected to the farm communities we represent. Now we must build upon these relationships to show Americans and the world that the United States is open for business. 

Washington, Kentucky, and Tennessee may be vastly different in the products we produce and export, but the fact remains: We rely on our neighbors to the north and south.

The United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement is the modernized trade agreement our country needs and our agriculture industries deserve.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently hosted a press conference in support of the USMCA with all living former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture from both Republican and Democratic administrations in attendance. This bipartisan effort shows that securing a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is widely supported throughout the country. Our constituents agree.

Washington state’s diverse agriculture industry relies on Canadian and Mexican markets, with exports totaling $1.2 billion to Canada and $343 million to Mexico in 2018. The 4th Congressional District is home to over 10,000 farms, which grow a variety of commodities from tree fruit and potatoes to wine grapes and hops. The USMCA would guarantee that Mexico could remain the largest importer of the iconic Washington apple.

As home to one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing winemaking regions, Washington’s farmers would also benefit from the trade agreement’s expanded access for U.S. wine into Canada.

With a national history in agriculture, Kentucky leads the U.S. in production of poultry, soybeans, corn, and industrialized hemp. With the USMCA in place, the U.S. poultry industry, which is a major economic driver and job creator in Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, would enjoy expanded access in Canada, forecasted to increase by over $183 million in exports. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture estimates that Kentucky alone will boast $213 million in agricultural exports to Canada and $49 million in exports to Mexico.

Tennessee’s farmers and ranchers take pride in the hard work, dignity, and independence that come with working in agriculture. With soybeans, cotton, and corn ranking among the top exports, the people of Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District depend on the state’s $250 million export market in Canada and the $110 million export market in Mexico. In fact, 12,500 Tennesseans’ jobs are supported through agricultural exports.

The USMCA supports farmers by reducing barriers that are currently present under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes eliminating tariffs on dairy exports to Canada. The International Commission economic impact report forecasts $314.5 million of additional dairy exports compared to current markets, a remarkable source of profit for dairy producers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Washington.

Not only would our farmers and ranchers see an immediate benefit with the nearly completely duty-free access to Canadian and Mexican markets, but solidifying our markets through ratification of the USMCA will put us in an even stronger position to negotiate with other countries, like China, whose markets are suffering without U.S. goods.

These statistics paint a picture of success for the United States’ agriculture industry under the USMCA. We must pass this trade agreement in order to put our farmers back on the path of success with the opportunity to create and sustain thousands of American farm jobs. Unfortunately, the agreement has stalled in the House of Representatives, and the longer Speaker Pelosi waits to bring USMCA for a vote, the more opportunities for growth are lost.

Congress must continue to work toward approving a strong, fair, preferential trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. We understand how critical it is to work across party lines and advocate for agriculture, and our constituents deserve the USMCA.


Congressman Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District. He served as Director of Washington State’s Department of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013.

Congressman James Comer represents Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District. He served as the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture from 2012 to 2016.

Congressman John Rose represents Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. He served as Tennessee’s 33rd Commissioner of Agriculture in 2002.