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Montana Ag Network: “Farmers for Free Trade” RV tour stops in Billings

BILLINGS – For the past two weeks, Farmers for Free Trade, a bipartisan coalition supported by ag commodity groups from across the agricultural industry, has been on an 11-state, 3,500-mile RV Tour touting support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Retired U.S. Senator and former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus of Montana is a founder and co-chair of Farmers for Free Trade and he said it’s time to set partisan politics aside.

“A bushel of barley isn’t a Republican bushel or a democratic bushel,” said Baucus. “A steer or heifer isn’t a Republican or Democratic steer or heifer. It’s nonpartisan. It’s crazy partisan politics sometimes gets in the way it should not at all. We’re all Americans trying to make sure our country prospers. Part of this trip because it’s bipartisan is to keep partisan politics out of it and must focus on getting the job done.”

Michelle Erickson-Jones farms near Broadview and is also the past president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She said the new USMCA is important for farmers like her.

“It works on the Canadian grade grading issue that they treat it the same whether it’s U.S. origin or Canadian origin and that’s definitely important for some of our farmers on the Hi-Line,” said Erickson-Jones. “It’s just important overall because Mexico is our number one barley market. Mexico. It’s the U.S.’s number one wheat market and so it just has some huge impacts to agriculture. It’s important that we get it done and get it finalized and inject some stability in the markets.”

USMCA is the re-negotiated trade deal between the three countries meant to replace NAFTA, which Baucus said U.S. farmers and ranchers have done extremely well with.

“U.S. agriculture exports to Mexico and Canada since 2003 and during NAFTA have increased 70 percent,” said Baucus. “American agricultural exports to those two countries have increased 70 percent and add to that Montana’s agricultural exports which I think are $720 million.”

A new report by the International Trade Commission shows the new trade agreement could mean nearly $2.2 billion in U.S. agricultural exports.

Urging Congress to pass the USMCA is a top priority of Farmers for Free Trade as lawmakers return to Washington this week following their Easter recess.

-Reported by Russell Nemetz/MTN News

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