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USMCA: A better trade deal that keeps California agriculture competitive

The Austin Hope and Treana tasting cellar in Paso Robles has a welcoming, lounge-like feel.
The Austin Hope and Treana tasting cellar in Paso Robles has a welcoming, lounge-like feel. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

It’s no secret to Californians that you live in an economic powerhouse, the world’s fifth largest economy. From the high-tech giants in Silicon Valley to the expansive fields and orchards of the San Joaquin Valley, California is a critical component of global commerce and trade. That is why new and updated trade deals, like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement create new opportunities for Californians by bolstering trade relations with our North American neighbors, making it a true victory for California.

In 2018 alone, California exported $48.4 billion in goods and services to Canada and Mexico — nearly 20 percent of overall United States exports. Agriculture supports nearly 240,000 jobs in California and creates more than $29 billion in value annually. Trade with our neighbors to the north and south helps support this industry, and the passage of USMCA will only further advance and grow California’s economy, specifically the agriculture industry. President Donald J. Trump is fighting for new and better trade deals for America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers. The president has won a better deal for America in USMCA.

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Steve Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, portrait and passport in Washington,. DC on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. USDA photo by Ken Hammond. Ken Hammond USDA photo

California is known around the world for producing world-class wines. Stretching from Napa and Sonoma to Paso Robles and San Diego, California accounts for 81% of United States wine production and ranks fourth in the world for production. The more people get a taste of California wine, the more they want to buy. Our job at the Department of Agriculture is to expand markets to sell the bounty of our agricultural products. Before USMCA, Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia, had laws allowing discrimination against United States wine by forcing it to be sold in an additional enclosed area within retail stores, essentially hiding it from their consumers. USMCA eliminates British Columbia’s ability to discriminate against our American wine, helping to put your products on a level playing field with the rest of the world.

I recently visited J. Lohr winery in Paso Robles to see the operation myself. J. Lohr farms more than 4,100 acres of vines across the state and produces more than 1.5 million cases of wine every year. With USMCA, J. Lohr will sell more wine to Canadian consumers, boosting profits and supporting California’s wine industry.

USMCA benefits don’t stop at wine. In fact, the agreement helps all of California’s diverse agricultural industry. It updates decades-old language regarding technology trade, stabilizing the ag-tech sector and advancing the use of technology in agriculture. The agreement also improves the flow of trade by strengthening science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures to protect human, animal, and plant health. The United States is standing for fact-based trade policies, bringing our trading relationships into the 21st century.

California dairy producers will have increased access to Canada’s highly protected milk market. USMCA eliminates Canada’s unfair Class 7 milk pricing scheme that was creatively developed to block our exports into the Canadian market and undermine United States exports of skim milk powder to other countries. Canadian consumers will have a chance to taste the delicious dairy products that come from California’s “happy cows,” while expanding California’s $6.56 billion dairy industry. The hen houses in Sonoma, Fresno, and Merced counties will see an increase in market access as well, directly benefiting California’s $8 billion poultry and egg industry.

President Trump is also working to help California’s farmers access a legal and reliable workforce by reforming the H-2A program. Farmers shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to hire a farmworker. The Trump administration is working to streamline the H-2A application process, removing time-wasting paperwork and burdensome barriers. Farmers are hardworking patriots and deserve access to a legal workforce when American workers are not available.

President Trump pledged to fight for the American worker and farmer. In USMCA, he has fought for and secured a better trade deal than the decades-old NAFTA. With USMCA, America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers will be better positioned to feed and clothe the world. Now it’s up to members of Congress to take the next step and pass USMCA as soon as they return from the August recess.

Stephen Censky is the U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture. He is touring farms and wineries near Paso Robles Thursday and Friday.
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