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Vice President Pence urges USMCA passage during Iowa visit

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Vice President Mike Pence visited Waukee Wednesday to promote the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. During his speech, he said he was in Iowa to "turn up the heat" for Democrats in Congress to do their job. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

It’s been 314 days since President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The agreement could be a boost for U.S. agriculture, but it hasn’t been brought to the floor of the House of Representatives. In a visit to the Manning farm near Waukee Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said it’s time to get it done.

“I came to Iowa today to turn up the heat,” Pence said. “I came to Iowa today to say it’s time for the Democrats in Congress to do their job, put politics aside, and pass the USMCA this year.”

For farmers like Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 9 Director Pat Swanson, the vice president’s visit was reassuring.

“This was an opportunity to hear right from the vice president how important this agreement is to our president and this administration,” said Swanson, from Ottumwa. “It needs to get done—and soon— because we need that assurance that we have a trade agreement in place with our neighbors to sell the products that we are harvesting right now.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Kim Reynolds wave to the crowd during a rally to support the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Pence urged those in attendance to reach out to their Democratic Congresspeople—Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer and David Loebsack— to reinforce the need for this agreement, which updates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994.

“Tell them, ‘Iowa needs the USMCA,’ ” Pence said.

USMCA would be a win for Iowa. In 2018, Mexico and Canada were Iowa’s two largest trading partners, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The passage of USMCA means better access to the Canada and Mexico markets.

Jen Sorenson, communications director of Iowa Select Farms, said the company has much to gain with improved markets. Iowa Select Farms is set to produce about 1.5 billion pounds of pork in 2019.

“If you do the rough napkin math, that’s about 180 million pounds of pork that we’ll be exporting to Mexico and Canada, which tells you how important exports are to Iowa and Iowa farmers,” Sorenson said.

U.S. soybean farmers have already witnessed the benefits of trade with Canada and Mexico under the existing NAFTA. Since then, soybean exports have quadrupled to Mexico and doubled to Canada. U.S. soy exports to Canada and Mexico were almost $3 billion in 2017, according to the American Soybean Association (ASA). Mexico is now the second-largest export market for U.S. soybeans and soy meal. A total of $43 billion of U.S. agriculture products are exported to Canada and Mexico every year.

Under the deal, U.S. exports to Canada are expected to increase by 5.9%; exports to Mexico are expected to grow by 6.7%. U.S. food and agriculture exports are expected to increase by $2.2 billion.

“USMCA will create new opportunities for our families, farmers, manufacturers and small businesses while opening new markets for our exports,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday.

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also joined Pence in support of the USMCA.

“I say it’s time for Congress to pass USMCA,” Ernst said. “This is not about politics. This is about the livelihood of Americans … Americans, Iowans want USMCA. I am going to fight to make sure we get it over the finish line.”

Grassley said passage of the USMCA is his top priority. In speaking with Speaker Pelosi about the agreement, he believes she wants to ‘get to yes’ on the deal.

“And I was glad to hear her say that impeachment politics won’t get in the way of legislative action,” Grassley said. “I hope that is true. But the clock is ticking, and actions will speak louder than words.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.

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