ARLINGTON, VA – Election years always pose challenges for getting things done on Capitol Hill, but dairy is well-positioned to make gains in 2020, according to Paul Bleiberg, the National Milk Producer Federation’s vice president of government relations.
Senate approval of the USMCA trade agreement and a Senate plan on agricultural labor are only two topics in which positive steps could occur, said Bleiberg, NMPF’s chief legislative policy staffer for the past two years. Child nutrition, transportation could also get put on the front burner, depending on what Congress decides to take up this year. “The completion of the USMCA process and the work in the Senate on ag labor are the top two priorities,” Bleiberg said.
Bleiberg also discusses dairy’s role in the 2020 elections and how dairy producers and allies can affect policy. To listen to the full podcast, click here. You can also find the Dairy Defined podcast on Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file below. Please attribute information to NMPF.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement timeline remains uncertain. However, lawmakers in the certain seem certain they will pass the agreement, at the latest, following impeachment hearings.
The House is still holding the articles of impeachment, alleging the Senate won’t agree to a fair trial. At issue is the Senate must make impeachment a priority. Depending on how long a further review of USMCA takes in the Senate, and how long House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds the articles of impeachment, will change the trajectory of USMCA.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the agreement this week. However, a Senate parliamentarian has determined that eight other Senate committees must offer approval of the agreement. However, U.S. law states the agreement will be discharged from those committees in 15 days, regardless of approval.
If Nancy Pelosi sends articles of impeachment to the Senate between now and whenever the committees approve the agreement, perhaps next week, the USMCA implementing legislation would have to wait until the impeachment trial is over, likely at the end of this month.
Agriculture groups are calling on the Senate to “finish the job” and pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement following approval in the House of Representatives Thursday.
The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed implementing legislation for USMCA, sending the trade agreement to the Senate. The vote came following a delay of more than a year to make changes and reach an agreement between House Democrats and the Trump administration. Representative Richard Neal, who led the House efforts to modify the agreement, says the transformed trade deal approved Thursday “closes important loopholes and enables the United States to ensure our trading partners live up to their commitments.”
Senate leader Mitch McConnell last week stated the Senate would not consider approving the agreement until after the Senate completes an impeachment trial in January. Members of the National Corn Growers Association were in Washington this week, urging the Senate to quickly consider and pass the trade agreement in the new year.
While the U.S-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is set for a vote in the House on Thursday, Republicans and Democrats both claimed credit for the final version of the pact on Wednesday.
Agri-Pulse says Republican lawmakers piled their praise upon President Trump for demanding that the North American Free Trade Agreement be renegotiated. However, Democrats say the changes they demanded were what made the agreement work. During the early days of negotiations, Democrats said they wouldn’t support the agreement unless it discouraged U.S. companies from relocating to Mexico. “The Trump Administration’s initial agreement fell short, but House Democrats fought hard for greater accountability in the final draft,” says California Representative Linda Sanchez.
Republican Kevin Brady of Texas says, “President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer delivered on their promise for a pro-growth and modern trade pact. We now have a trade deal that will deliver historic wins for our economy.” Democrats say the new measures in the USMCA will allow for unions nationwide in Mexico and will eventually push wages higher within that country. Republicans point out that it’s been over a year since the new agreement was signed, saying Democrats’ obsession with impeachment has kept a vital agreement from getting approved.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are on track to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement this week. The House Ways and Means Committee began the process Tuesday, considering the implementing bill in a markup hearing.
During the hearing, Committee Chairman Richard Neal said during his opening statement, which included no mention of agriculture, that the changes “set a new standard for U.S. trade agreements.” Ranking Republican on the Committee, Kevin Brady, stated the agreement “pries open Canada’s market” for several U.S. farm commodities.
The committee moved the bill on to the full House for consideration. The House is expected to vote on the implementing bill Thursday. The Senate, however, will not consider the legislation until after any impeachment hearings, likely around late January.
The bill repeals the current North American Free Trade Agreement and replaces it with USMCA. President Donald Trump sent the implementing legislation to Congress last week, following an agreement on changes to the deal with House Democrats.
An objection by Mexico won’t stop the U.S. House from approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico had promised reciprocal measures regarding labor enforcement inspections. However, Agri-Pulse reported late Monday that Mexico was going to withdraw the objection.
Mexico previously approved the agreement this summer, and even approved the modified agreement last week, before announcing the concerns. An official from Mexico is in Washington, D.C., this week to talk with lawmakers. President Donald Trump sent implementing legislation for USMCA to the House late last week, and the chamber still plans to vote and approve the agreement this week.
Spending bills are expected Tuesday, followed by a vote on the articles of impeachment Wednesday, setting up a vote on USMCA Thursday, in the House. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate will not consider USMCA until January, or later, following impeachment hearings. Also, last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was “no chance” the chamber would remove the president from office.
The House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a vote of 260 to 165. The bill would ease immigration for agricultural workers. It won the support of over 300 farm groups, as well as the United Farm Workers.
The Hagstrom Report points out that the California Farm Bureau supported the bill but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. AFB fears the bill will lead to higher wages for farm workers and increase the legal vulnerability of farm employers. President Zippy Duvall says several amendments that would have addressed Farm Bureau concerns were blocked from consideration, so they “do not support the final bill passed by the House.”
Heritage Action for America says it grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without doing anything to “reform our broken immigration system.” Zoe Lofgren of California, the lead sponsor of the bill, says, “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for our farm workers.”
Republicans weren’t happy about the bill’s formula for calculating farm wages and complained that the year-round visa pilot program doesn’t include the meat and poultry sectors. They also objected to providing “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants working on U.S. farms. The bill’s prospects in the Senate and with President Trump are described as problematic.
U.S. farmers won’t see a North America trade deal under the Christmas tree this year, despite this week’s deal to move the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement forward.
The House of Representatives, which must act first, plans to vote by the end of next week, sending the trade deal to the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday the Senate won’t be able to consider the agreement until after Christmas, pushing Senate action on USMCA into 2020. McConnell cited a full slate of issues to consider, including spending bills, judicial appointments and the pending impeachment trial.
The January Senate calendar is blank, leaving room for a month of impeachment proceedings in the Senate. While Democrats were blamed for stalling the agreement, they’ve flipped the coin to blaming Senate Republicans for causing further delays. McConnell claims House Democrats waited too long before advancing the agreement to allow for the trade to become law this year. But, McConnell’s intentions could push a Senate vote to February.