The Bakersfield Californian: Community Voices: Open Trade With Our Neighbors Is A Win For The Central Valley

By Sen. Shannon Grove

Published in the Bakersfield Californian on December 12, 2019.
Link to article here:

California farmers are the largest producers of food in the United States. The Golden State’s unique soil and climate make it an ideal location for diverse agricultural production. In fact, California leads the nation in the production of more than 45 agriculture products, including strawberries, raisins, walnuts, pomegranates, olives, nectarines and lemons. Here in the Central Valley, our farmers, farmworkers and agricultural employees work hard to help put food on dinner tables across the nation.

In 2018, California exported $48.4 billion in goods and services to Canada and Mexico combined, supporting nearly 240,000 jobs and creating more than $29 billion in economic value. Trade with our neighbors to the north and south helps support our agricultural communities and powers the fifth largest economy in the world.

While the methods and tools for growing and processing food have transformed dramatically over the last several decades, so have the ways we trade goods. A pending new trade agreement with our neighboring countries would replace existing outdated trade policies and modernize trade with our two largest trading partners.

Once enacted, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), among other things, would give California dairy farmers access to Canadian and Mexican markets. They would gain access to the full range of their products, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Additionally, poultry and egg producers in our state would have unprecedented access to the Canadian market.

The USMCA would also eliminate trade barriers, expand market access for agricultural products, modernize digital trade and offer transparency for many industries. The opportunities in this trade deal would benefit many agricultural industries. This deal will also enforce labor standards that help level the playing field for American workers and improve wages and working conditions for North American workers. The USMCA would allow additional access to trade with our neighbors to the north and south that will not only benefit farmers and ranchers but will create more jobs and bring more economic resources to our state.

Among the notable strides in agriculture since the drafting of the original North American trade deal are advancements in the field of technology. In 1993, when the original deal was signed into law, an American inventor created a device that allowed farmers to monitor the strongest and weakest parts of fields. This was the first step in making precision farming possible. Now, in 2019, millions benefit from technology created as a result of this discovery which helps farmers more sustainably and efficiently grow food. The USMCA recognizes new developments in an effort to spur more innovation, enhance information exchange and improve cooperation on technology.

This modern trade deal is a clear victory for agriculture and our Central Valley, home to several of the nation’s top agricultural producing counties. Passage of the USMCA would provide our diligent farmers assurance that North American trade will be stable.

After over a year of positive discussions in Congress and between nations, the time for action is now. This bill has received bipartisan support, is supported by the president of Mexico and would be mutually beneficial for the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

Our hardworking farmers, ranchers, farmworkers and agribusinesses should not have to suffer the consequences of operating under an outdated and less than stable trade deal simply because of partisan politics. 

President Trump’s commitment to this deal has shown his immense support for our productive agriculture industry. Unfortunately, our president’s positive direction is often met with unnecessary attacks by Gov. Gavin Newsom. These political attacks may serve as a headline for the governor, but they are destroying livelihoods in the Valley. He cannot continue assaulting the industries that make Kern County strong just because he likes media attention.

Every day we reap the benefits of those working in the agricultural industry. Yet farmers face uncertainty due to ridiculous laws being passed by Democrats in Sacramento, unreasonable lawsuits between Gov. Newsom and the federal administration and activists pushing fake facts about the food we eat. Finalizing the USMCA shows our farmers that we are in fact prioritizing stability in the agricultural sector and rightfully putting our hardworking farmers above politics. As a resident of the largest agricultural producing state in the nation, it was shameful for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to hold the bill hostage for as long as she did.

With the recent attacks on our agricultural industry with Gov. Newsom’s administration suing over biological opinions that would have brought more water to the Valley, it is more crucial than ever before to recognize the benefits provided by the USMCA. California must stop attacking our farmers and begin supporting their efforts. Pushing for the USMCA now is a great start.