Commentary: Meet with your representatives on behalf of USMCA

Issue Date: August 7, 2019
By Jamie Johansson
Jamie Johansson
CFBF President Jamie Johansson, foreground right, discusses the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, left, during a group meeting in Feinstein’s Capitol Hill office.
Photo/Office of Senator Feinstein

It's as true now in the era of text messages and Instagram stories as it was when the telegram was the fastest form of communication: As powerful as written communications can be, face-to-face advocacy still pays dividends.

The month of August provides plenty of opportunity for such face-to-face discussions with your members of Congress—most will be spending the month in their districts during a congressional recess. I encourage you to take advantage of that opportunity to schedule meetings with your representatives to advocate for the issues important to California farmers and ranchers.

One of those top issues—trade—has become more prominent, as Congress considers the pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. To emphasize the importance of the USMCA to California agriculture, three-dozen California farmers, ranchers and leaders of agricultural organizations staged a one-day "fly-in" to Washington, D.C., late last month.

The intensive advocacy effort included California Farm Bureau Federation officers, directors and staff, several county Farm Bureau leaders plus leaders of the organizations that cosponsored the fly-in: the International Dairy Foods Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and American Farm Bureau Federation.

We divided into groups to visit every California congressional office. Here are key points we stressed with senators, members of Congress and their staffs—points I encourage you to reinforce this month while your representatives are home in their districts:

  • We support swift passage of the USMCA in the House, and then the Senate. We want members of Congress from California to encourage Speaker Nancy Pelosi to continue working with the administration to bring the agreement to a vote after the August recess.
  • The USMCA will improve market access and customs procedures in Canada and Mexico for the majority of California agricultural products, which will benefit the state's farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses.
  • California food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico support more than 56,000 jobs, and jobs will be added as those exports increase.
  • The agreement strengthens science-based procedures to protect human, animal and plant health—known as sanitary and phytosanitary measures—while improving the flow of trade.
  • The USMCA contains specific provisions that would benefit exports of processed fruits, milk and dairy products, beef, wine, poultry and eggs, and other products.
  • Not just rural California would benefit. Agricultural exports support thousands of jobs in California cities—at ports, marketing companies, food processors, trucking firms and other businesses that prepare and move agricultural products from the state's farms and ranches to customers in Canada and Mexico.

We were well-received by our representatives, and there have been indications during the past week that more Democratic members of Congress are encouraging passage of the agreement. Most rural representatives from California favor the agreement, but we must bolster that support and encourage them to advocate for the USMCA with colleagues from other parts of the state.

Monterey County Farm Bureau President Colby Pereira, who participated in the fly-in, puts it this way: "It's very important to have a united message from all of California agriculture surrounding the importance of export markets for our farm and food economy, and the countless jobs supported by export markets."

Another fly-in participant, Fresno County Farm Bureau President Matt Efird, agreed, adding that "it's our responsibility to continue the conversation we started in Washington, D.C." Even though the fly-in occurred just before his almond harvest started, Matt said he felt the trip was worth the sacrifice in time, "to get in front of our representatives one-on-one to stress the importance of USMCA."

August is a busy month for many of us, but I hope you'll carve out some time to meet with your representatives and continue the momentum for passing USMCA. For help in setting up district meetings with your representatives, contact the CFBF Federal Policy Department at 916-561-5610.

(California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson grows olives and citrus fruit and operates an olive oil company in Oroville.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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