Corn growers warn of trade-deal delay on USMCA

Pact could take months to complete, while Congress bogs down on Farm Bill

 The Illinois Corn Growers Association warns that a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico could take months to complete, with the process extending well into 2019. (Flickr/daveynin)

The Illinois Corn Growers Association warns that a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico could take months to complete, with the process extending well into 2019. (Flickr/daveynin)

By Ted Cox

Illinois corn growers are warning that a new U.S. trade pact with Canada and Mexico could take months to complete — and that’s if all three countries ultimately approve it.

The Illinois Corn Growers Association posted a piece last week asking, “When will the new NAFTA be effective,” and answering itself, “Good question.”

The post cited a story by Politico reporter Megan Cassella stating: “Most trade experts and analysts expect that a vote on the deal … will not happen until 2019 because of several procedural steps it must go through.”

President Trump boasted of a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement a week ago to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has dictated trade policy since the Clinton administration in the ‘90s. Illinois corn and soybean growers immediately embraced the new trade pact, but the ICGA laid out a timeline later last week showing that it will likely be next year before it’s fully approved by all three countries.

The agreement was approved before the end of September so that outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto could sign it before leaving office at the end of November. But the new Mexican government being seated could complicate final passage, and the same goes for the United States with the midterm election approaching Nov. 6. The New York Times reported last week that the rushed hardball negotiations had already damaged the relationship between the United States and Canada.

The ICGA pointed out that 60 days after the signing ceremony, well into 2019, the Trump administration will have to submit a list of all the changes in U.S. law included in the new trade pact, and after that it will still have to clear both houses of Congress.

The way Congress has handled a new Farm Bill, as the old one was expiring at the end of September, has not been encouraging. Politico reported Monday that negotiations between the U.S. House and Senate to reconcile their competing versions of the bill were at an impasse.

According to a Politico story published Monday, Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway is pushing for more funding for Southern cotton growers, while Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is urging for the new Farm Bill to include more funding for urban farms and renewable energy.

Meanwhile, there is no sign of compromise on a House Republican call for the Farm Bill to impose a work requirement for food stamps, which Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has blamed for the impasse.

The Politico story reported: “Conaway has dug in on the proposal for stricter food-stamp work requirements in his bill, and President Donald Trump has publicly backed him up, but the provision has no chance of passing in the Senate.”

Durbin said of the Farm Bill last week that it’s important “that we get it done sooner rather than later.”