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Expanding trade relationships with Nebraska’s nearest international neighbors has helped grow Nebraska for many years. International trade is especially crucial for our state’s farmers and ranchers. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. About 1 in 4 people in Nebraska’s workforce are employed in agricultural production and agriculture-related businesses.

Over the past few years, I have been working to grow trade with our closest neighbors with a trade mission to Canada and two missions to Mexico. Canada is Nebraska’s biggest trade partner, and our state’s top export market for ethanol and pet food. Mexico is Nebraska’s leading export market for corn, wheat, and dairy products. Both countries annually import over $1 billion of Nebraska-made products.

Because Canada and Mexico are top trading partners for Nebraska, President Donald Trump’s recent trade negotiations with the countries were critical for us. Negotiations between the United States, Canada, and Mexico on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) concluded in October 2018. The result was the signing of a revamped, high-standard trade deal among the three countries: The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). The deal builds on the great trade relationships and market access that have helped U.S. food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico increase from $9 billion in 1993 to almost $40 billion in 2018.

Regrettably, Democrats in Congress have dragged their feet on approving the trade deal. The longer they delay, the more Nebraska’s ag producers are going to miss out on opportunities. It’s time for Congress to show a sense of urgency and seal the deal.

Congressional approval of USMCA is especially important to Nebraska’s farm families right now. Nebraska’s ag community was hit hard by flooding and blizzards this spring, commodity prices remain much lower than they were just a few years ago, and trade uncertainty with China has slowed the state’s agricultural exports. In light of these factors, ratification of USMCA would give ag producers a much-needed boost.

To illustrate the benefits of trade deals, in 2017 Nebraska’s exports to countries with free-trade agreements accounted for 56% of the state’s total exports. They include agreements with Australia, the Central American Trade Agreement, Israel, Korea, and NAFTA. Mutually beneficial international trade relationships contribute to Nebraska’s economic well-being, and they spur overall economic growth. Exports from Nebraska to free-trade markets rose 104 percent between 2005 and 2015 with growth in exports to NAFTA countries at the top of the list.

NAFTA was a good deal for Nebraska, and USMCA will be even better. By leveling the playing field, free of tariffs and other obstructions, and expanding our market access, USMCA will ensure that ag producers in Nebraska receive fair treatment. The USMCA negotiations secured a high-standard, improved trade agreement for Nebraskans and the American people, all while growing decades-old relationships with two of our greatest allies and trading partners.

I applaud President Trump’s leadership in hammering out this deal on behalf of our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. The new-and-improved deal with Mexico and Canada promises to be a big boost for our ag community. On Wednesday of last week, Mexico’s senate approved USMCA by an overwhelming majority (114 to 4). There’s no good reason why the U.S. Congress can’t come together to get the job done. Now it’s time for our elected representatives to do their part and approve USMCA immediately, so Nebraskans can enjoy the agreement’s benefits.

In addition to USMCA, President Trump has been working tirelessly on our behalf to negotiate great trade deals around the world. He has successfully secured a new trade deal with South Korea. He has opened new markets for our products including Argentina to pork, China to beef, Japan to ethanol, and Vietnam to dried distillers grains. He has commenced trade negotiations with China, Japan, and the European Union. The President has even laid the groundwork with the United Kingdom so that, upon completion of Brexit, U.S. trade with the U.K. will be stronger than ever.

As Congress considers USMCA, I commend Nebraska’s Congressional delegation—Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith, and Don Bacon—for their support of the trade agreement and continued efforts to push for its swift approval. Nebraskans can count on our delegation when it comes up for vote. If you would like information on the State of Nebraska’s work to strengthen international trade, or have any questions about USMCA, you are welcome to contact me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.

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Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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