CORPUS CHRISTI – According to Farmers for Free Trade, Texas exported $26 million in fresh tomatoes to Canada in 2018, compared to less than $100,000 in exports to the rest of the world.

In 2018, Mexico bought $1.2 billion of Texas agricultural and food products where it accounted for over 99% of Texas exports to the world, led by hams, chicken cuts and turkey cuts.

With a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), business could get even better for local and state  farmers. The new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could help all involved, but with numerous bumps along the way, it’s having a hard time getting off the starting block.

Farmers for Free Trade hit the road in an RV in April, and has covered 15 states and over 6,000 miles since starting the Motorcade for Trade campaign. The motorcade made a stop at the Port of Corpus Christi on Wednesday, May 29, directly under the Harbor Bridge to bring its message to local farmers.

Traveling with the motorcade is Congressman Michael Cloud, Congressman Kevin Brady and Texas Farm Bureau Secretary-Treasurer, District 13 Scott Frazier.

“When asked if I could be part of this, I asked if we could have it here at the Port because I think it’s really important to bring home the message,” Frazier said. 

“It’s not all just about what’s going into our local farms and ranches, it’s what we ship all over the world. And so it’s really important to recognize that this Port of Corpus Christi, where we’re sitting today, is a vital link, especially locally here for us and for the state of Texas to ship products out of.”

Frazier went on to say that the number one product shipped from the port is grain sorghum and Nueces, San Patricio, Jim Wells and Kleberg counties most likely make up half the grain grown in the state of Texas.

“NAFTA has been good for Texas agriculture,” Frazier continued. “And the new USMCA will be better for Texas agriculture and for most other businesses in the state.”

Cloud said that one of the biggest issues when it comes to the USMCA is predictability when it comes to crops and being able to know that if farmers grow something, they’ll be able to sell and ship it.

“And so, it’s really important that we have free fair reciprocal trade,” Cloud said. “We’ve been working to get toward that and this would be a huge, huge, huge step to providing the environment that we need to move forward in that.”

Brady added, “Look, Texas is made for trade. No state ships or sells more around the world than Texas does and that’s especially true for agriculture for Texas.

“You know, this trade agreement supports billions of dollars of sales to our two biggest customers  – Mexico and Canada – and will create tens of thousands of Texas jobs.”

Farmers for Free Trades believes with the new USMCA agreement,  could create 176,000 more American jobs with more than $4.6 billion in agricultural exports from Texas to Mexico and Canada in 2018 alone.

Brady added that President Donald Trump lifting the steel and aluminum tariffs was also important to gaining support on USMCA.

National Sorghum Producers Board Director and Sinton native Bobby Nedbalek was present at the event and said, “Being a local farmer, I certainly realize how important this trade agreement is. You know, basically all of our grain here, as Scott framed it earlier, is going for export either to Mexico or China. Obviously, the China boats are a little harder to come by this year and we hope that changes, but certainly want to be sure that all those trails going to Mexico are open and active, because it’s extremely important that we move this year’s harvest.

“We certainly appreciate and applaud all the efforts that you make at the congressional level. And certainly for the trade group promotion to have farmer free trade. We certainly appreciate that and look forward to that being very profitable for both the U.S. and Mexico.”

An issue brought up by a family in the audience was, “When will the USMCA take effect?”

“This is an agreement that has, on a policy level, a lot of broad bipartisan support,” Cloud said. “There’s a number of winners across a number of industries, including ag, especially here in this agreement. And so the key in our discussion at this point is what can we do to continue to get it across the finish line.”

He continued by saying grassroots support was one of the major elements that could get it passed faster and keep it from becoming a “hot button issue” by helping the American people understand what the USMCA will do for everyone.

He said he expects it to  take affect sooner than later.

While that was good news just more than a week ago, things have taken a turn for what could be the worse.

In late May, the White House sent a “statement of administrative action” draft to Congress, starting a process that allows President Trump to submit the USMCA trade deal for approval within 30 days.

A statement from President of the American Farm Bureau Federation Zippy Duvall said, “The administration’s submitting the statement of administration action on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to Congress is good news for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“This notice means that we are one step closer to locking in vital market opportunities developed with our North American neighbors and expanding further on the gains we’ve made over the past three decades.”

But soon after the draft was submitted, the Trump administration announced a possible tariff being imposed on all Mexican imports over border security issues.

The president said he would implement 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods as of June 10, rising by another 5% a month until October, unless Mexico puts an end to all illegal migration into the United States.

While it is unsure what will happen as talks continue, one thing is sure, the group traveling across the county for Farmers for Free Trade will remain in their motorcade until the USMCA gets passed. And while they said they are growing tired, they will remain in their RV until the new NAFTA agreement goes through.

Hopefully sooner than later.