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Lifting of tariffs renews hope for USMCA passage

Article cover photo
ISA District 5 Director Rolland Schnell said he hopes the lifting of the Section 232 tariffs means a swift passage of the USMCA. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

The United States, Mexico and Canada appear to be one step closer to ratifying the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The United States announced an agreement with the two countries recently, removing the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. In the agreement, Canada and Mexico removed all retaliatory tariffs imposed on American goods.

This is good news for soybean farmers in Iowa and throughout the country, said Michael Dolch, public affairs director for the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

“Farmers rely on North American trade and maintaining duty-free access to U.S. soybeans’ top two trading partners – Mexico and Canada – is critical for folks facing an uncertain future. We thank the Trump Administration for reaching a deal lifting Section 232 metal tariffs and eliminating retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products,” Dolch said. “We appreciate Iowa Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst for vocalizing the roadblock these obstacles created on Capitol Hill. ISA is hopeful this breakthrough will spur congressional consideration of USMCA as soon as possible.”

The USMCA was signed by the three countries in November 2018 but has yet to be ratified by Congress. The implementation of the tariffs on Canada and Mexico was a roadblock to the two countries’ ratification of USMCA.

“The biggest hurdle to ratifying USMCA has been lifted. This is great news for farmers across the country. Iowa pork, soybean and corn farmers can breathe a sigh of relief that they will once again be able to sell their products in Canada and Mexico on a level playing field,” Grassley said.

U.S. soy exports to Canada and Mexico were almost $3 billion in 2017. U.S. soy exports to Mexico have grown four-fold since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), of which USMCA is its replacement. Mexico is the second largest export market for U.S. soybeans and soybean meal. Both Canada and Mexico represent a total of $43 billion in U.S. ag exports annually.

“Lifting of the steel and aluminum tariffs is excellent news because it’s going to ease tensions and hopefully speed up the final signatures on this Mexico and Canada Agreement,” said Rolland Schnell, a farmer and  ISA director from Newton. “It’s a very good thing. And it’s about time.”

With the tariffs lifted, American Soybean Association board member Brian Kemp of Sibley hopes for a swift ratification and passage of USMCA.

“Hopefully it will get some momentum going to get USMCA passed and getting trade issues resolved. Canada and Mexico are important trading partners, and certainly we are looking for other places to sell our soybeans in the absence of our China market,” Kemp said.

Ernst said the lifting of the tariffs on Canada and Mexico was “huge news for Iowa.” Now, she said, it’s time to get it passed.

“Now more than ever is the time for Speaker Pelosi and our House colleagues to signal their support for USMCA. We need to ratify this agreement swiftly — Iowa’s farmers and manufacturers are counting on it.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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