USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and former Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney has been traveling the Hoosier state this week holding roundtable discussions with farmers and congressional leaders regarding trade, specifically the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).
McKinney says he remembers everyone saying, “Do no harm,” when they opened negotiations on what was then NAFTA. He says they’ve done better than that, providing valuable benefits for agriculture.
“One of the big ones is much more dairy access and we’ve brought down the unfairness, some might even say cheating, that Canada was doing with the creation of two new classes of milk and milk products. I think we got better access for wheat. There is some poultry, you know, in your listening and reading area, and with absolute certainty greater poultry (access).”
Another benefit is the brand-new chapter on biotechnology and the biosciences.
“Nowhere else around the world does a free trade agreement have that. So, by having that, we set a template that we can cut and paste, perhaps, into other agreements, and it’s a dandy. It not only includes biotech as we’ve known it, the so-called GMOs, but it also includes gene editing and the CRISPR technologies, which is the wave of the future.”
McKinney continued, “Then finally there’s been a complete rewrite of the sanitary and phytosanitary chapters, and for those that know that, that’s usually where you get screwed around the world. People start playing with what’s safe and what’s not safe. I look to Europe. ‘Those GMOs, they’re just not safe. We can’t do that,’- come on.”
McKinney says he understands that Congress is doing their due diligence in looking over USMCA; however, “Now that the August recess is coming to a close September 6, it’s time to get it done. It’s time to bring it forward for the benefit of all three countries.”
McKinney began the day on Thursday in South Bend with US Representative Jackie Walorski before coming to Lafayette with Congressman Jim Baird.