USMCA Big Boost to California Farmers Hit by China Trade War

A farm worker drives a tractor through the a vineyard during harvest 09 October 2006 at the Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria, California. Cooler weather earlier this year delayed the ripening of grapes at many Central Coast vineyards. (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed Tuesday will provide “significant long-term economic benefits” to California farmers in the Central Valley, according to the Fresno County Farm Bureau’s Ryan Jacobsen.

The Fresno Bee reported Tuesday that Jacobsen hailed the agreement, which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had been stonewalling for months over “tweaks” in labor enforcement. Critics alleged that Pelosi had resisted the agreement because she did not want to give President Donald Trump a major policy win, as replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had been a core campaign promise. She only relented after Democrats announced two watered-down articles of impeachment against the president earlier on Tuesday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that Pelosi’s stalling left the Senate too little time to debate USMCA before the end of the year. Still, approval is likely after the Senate dispenses with impeachment in 2020.

The Fresno Bee elaborated on the USMCA’s benefits for the Central Valley, a key region for U.S. agriculture (original links):

Canada is the largest importer of agricultural goods from California, while Mexico ranks fourth. Combined agriculture exports from California to the two nations totaled more than $4.3 billion in 2017-18, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Jacobsen said that while NAFTA worked well for many years for California farmers, “this will update and increase market access for many of the commodities we currently trade.”

But he lamented how much time has passed from when the Trump administration first presented a draft of USMCA to Congress and the agreement between Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress that will allow the deal to move to a vote. “It’s been over a year since the draft was circulated to Congress,” Jacobsen said. “It’s frustrating that it’s taken this long for what we consider a win-win for all three countries. We’re excited now that it’s coming to a vote.”

Central Valley farmers have been prime targets for retaliation in the trade war with China. Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports have dented opportunities for California farmers, who had hoped to use the plentiful rainfall of recent years to take advantage of bumper crops. Still, support for Trump in the conservative region remains high, and the passage of USMCA is likely to rally farmers around him further, as the deal has broad bipartisan support.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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