Weekly Column

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Well over one year ago, President Trump announced a historic trade deal that will benefit Nebraska’s families, agriculture, manufacturing, and businesses: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) while fortifying our strong trading relationships with Canada and Mexico – and growing critical market access for our state. The overwhelming bipartisan support for it reveals the common-sense measures taken to reflect the reality of the 21st century challenges that Nebraska and the Heartland are facing every day.

Nebraska’s families, farmers, ag producers, and manufacturers have told me time and again how important this deal is for their success and the generations that will follow in their footsteps.

America’s neighbors to the north and south are the destination of 44 percent of Nebraska’s total exports. In 2017 alone, our state sent nearly 900 million dollars of ag products to Mexico and nearly 450 million dollars of ag products to Canada. Of course, these exports included our world-class corn, soybeans, ethanol, and beef.

As I have said throughout this process, America’s heart beats in the same rhythm as agriculture. When our ag producers succeed, all Nebraskans reap the benefits.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture reports that our state’s 6.4 billion dollars in agricultural exports in 2017 led to nearly $8.2 billion dollars in additional economic activity in our state. Those trade dollars help Nebraska’s budget and help pay for many of our state programs.

For the good of our state and nation, Nebraska’s top two markets – Mexico and Canada – must be protected.

Just before the holiday season, the House reached an agreement with the administration and passed the USMCA. The Senate got right to work in considering the deal, and the USMCA was recently reported favorably out of the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 25-3. 

Now that the House has passed and the Senate Finance committee has approved the USMCA, many Nebraskans may be looking for an answer as to why the deal has not been brought before the full Senate for a vote yet.  

That answer actually lies within the USMCA’s broad and diverse updates, which fall under the jurisdiction of seven committees in the Senate. For example, because of transportation provisions included in the deal, it was also referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, on which I serve.

It is important to note that the deal has also been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee because it is the first trade deal to include environmental protection measures in its text. 

The USMCA deploys the most advanced, comprehensive set of environmental protections of any trade agreement in our nation’s history. The list of environmental protections includes first-ever articles to improve air quality, support forest management, and ensure procedures for studies on the agreement’s environmental impact. Unlike NAFTA, the USMCA provides enforcement mechanisms that will ensure that all countries not only meet, but strengthen their environmental responsibilities.

Further, the USMCA was referred to the Senate Committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Foreign Relations; Appropriations; and Budget. Each of these committees must report out the legislation to the full Senate.

Congress is on the verge of a major bipartisan accomplishment. Passage of the USMCA would mean a win for Nebraska and the hardworking men and women of the Heartland. I know how important this trade agreement is to Nebraska, and you can be sure I’ll be focused on pushing it across the finish line.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.