TWIN FALLS — The news Tuesday that Congressional Democrats had reached a deal with the White House to approve a new North America trade agreement was welcomed in Idaho, where officials said the development will help the dairy industry.
Magic Valley politicians and agriculture leaders have been outspoken about the importance of passing a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said the deal fulfills President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.
“There was no question NAFTA needed to be renegotiated to give goods and services made in the United States fairer treatment among trading allies,” Crapo said.
“President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative (Robert) Lighthizer’s forceful negotiations on behalf of America’s farmers and workers fulfills one of President Trump’s core campaign promises and many Americans will see the benefits of this updated trade agreement. ...
“Access to fair trade treatments in the international marketplace remains a critical component of my focus in considering trade policies, and I look forward to reviewing the final details of the proposal.”
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) also applauded the new agreement.
“It is long past time to pass USMCA,” Simpson said. “President Trump struck this deal 375 days ago and our farmers and ranchers in Idaho need truly free and fair trade. That is what this deal delivers and I look forward to supporting it if Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi will allow a vote on this important trade agreement that will help Idaho.”
Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said the trade deal will ensure the dairy industry maintains its strong ties with Mexico, America’s largest trading partner for dairy.
“Passage of the bill would guarantee that access to that Mexican market would go on without disruption,” Naerebout said.
Naerebout explained that NAFTA worked well for dairy. The USCMA will maintain the positive parts of the old agreement, he said.
The new agreement will also lead to some changes in the Canadian dairy industry, which will benefit American farmers.
The Canadian milk industry, which is heavily subsidized by the Canadian government, had been effectively hurting American dairymen. The problem began when butter prices began trending upward.
Ten years ago, butter was seen as unhealthy and artery-clogging and many consumers opted for margarine instead. Today many are touting the health benefits of dairy fats. That’s led to an increase in demand for cream.
Canadian dairies started producing more cream to meet demand. But cows don’t produce pure cream, so Canada found itself sitting on an excess of milk proteins.
“They were dumping (milk proteins) onto the world market at a low cost, which is a violation not only of the NAFTA agreement, but it was also a violation of World Trade Organization regulations,” Naerebout told the Times-News in September.
The new agreement will address that problem, Naerebout said.