U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, this week issued a call to action to members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to join him in setting the record straight about the benefits the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides to American agriculture and rural jobs.
Click here to watch Roberts’ remarks at a Chamber discussion in Washington titled: The Future of NAFTA: The Stakes for American Agriculture and Business.
“We are fighting a pervasive view that our economy has not benefited from NAFTA,” said Chairman Roberts. “We are coming to a crossroads, and the decisions made on international trade will determine the future economic success of our country.”
“We must educate. Our message must be clear and consistent in every way. We must commit to challenge this view, set the record straight, and explain what is at stake. These issues affect real jobs and real lives.”
From his post as both Chairman of Agriculture and as a senior member of the Senate Committee on Finance which has jurisdiction on trade, Roberts has long been outspoken on the benefits of increased access to foreign markets for American farmers and ranchers.
At every opportunity, Roberts has brought his concerns to President Trump and others about the need to export not just things made in America, but also what is grown in America.
Roberts has challenged members of the Chamber to again mobilize the grassroots to challenge opponents of NAFTA with the facts about its significant benefit to agriculture and business.
“I promise I will continue to be your champion,” Roberts said. “Where ag and trade meet, we get results. So, saddle up and ride with me.”
Canada and Mexico have continuously been ranked in the top five destinations for U.S. agricultural exports since NAFTA was signed into law in 1993. Over the course of NAFTA, U.S. agricultural exports have increased to Canada by 265 percent, and to Mexico by 289 percent.
Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
It is always great to speak with business and industry leaders who know first-hand how the policies shaped in Washington impact grassroots businesses across the country and around the globe.
As the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, my primary task is to work on behalf of farmers, ranchers, growers, and other rural stakeholders in Kansas and across the rest of our country.
I’ve heard from a broad range of folks, and one thing is clear – times are challenging right now in farm country. We are in a rough patch!
Low commodity prices are weighing on farm sector profits for both row-crop and livestock producers.
Like you, farmers and ranchers need whatever certainty we can provide.
I have heard time and again that farmers and ranchers need a reliable market, both domestically and abroad to sell not just the things that we make, but, also, the commodities that we grow.
Fact: Canada and Mexico have ranked in the top three destinations for U.S. agricultural exports since 2001, and have continuously been ranked in the top five destinations for U.S. agricultural exports since NAFTA was signed into law in 1993.
And, this is why the ongoing negotiation to modernize and strengthen NAFTA puts us at such a critical juncture in U.S. trade policy.
Fact: over the course of the NAFTA agreement, U.S. agricultural exports have increased to Canada by 265 percent, and to Mexico by 289 percent.
Mexico barely registered as a market prior to NAFTA, but it is now the top destination for Kansas wheat.
In building stronger agricultural trading relationships with Canada and Mexico, our countries have also integrated markets through value-added products – everything from tractors and manufacturing components to a variety of energy resources.
In this regard, I look forward to working with the administration to grow new markets around the world, and I welcome the administration’s continued focus on eliminating long-standing trade barriers that American producers and exporters face around the globe.
I want to thank all of you for your continued partnership with the agricultural sector towards increasing exports around the globe.
I look forward to working together to maintain the position of the United States as a reliable supplier with our neighbors in North America and elsewhere around the world.
So the question is, how best do we accomplish our goal? Not by simply giving speeches and repeating the obvious benefits of free trade. We must make sure what we are saying and doing makes a real difference.
So many times, people just like you, partners in government, come to our nation’s capital, express their concerns, and then go home.
And that is ok, but in this particular case, we must do more.
I can tell you what you want to hear, but that is not enough. I need your help-you cannot merely echo what you hear today. We must work together to ensure our voices are heard and they result in positive action.
We are fighting a pervasive view that our economy has not benefited from NAFTA.
We are coming to a crossroads, and the decisions made on international trade will determine the future economic success of our country.
We must educate. Our message must be clear and consistent in every way.
We must commit to challenge this view, set the record straight, and explain what is at stake. These issues affect real jobs and real lives.
I have taken my concerns to the top. Since day one of this administration, I have personally told the president how important free trade is to agriculture…not once, not twice, but on three occasions.
And, let me point out that in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Committee established a new Trade Under Secretary within the Department of Agriculture to focus on opening markets for U.S. agriculture. We successfully confirmed Under Secretary McKinney, and he’s already leading a delegation to India to expand U.S. ag exports.
And, don’t forget that many of you joined the effort to resolve the threat of retaliation created by Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL. Your work to mobilize the grassroots efforts and to educate opponents was key to our success.
I promise I will continue to be your champion.
Where ag and trade meet, we get results. So, saddle up and ride with me.
Chairman Roberts Calls on Members of U.S. Chamber to Help Set Record Straight: NAFTA Benefits Agriculture