Ryan Quarles

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles understands the struggles of the American farmers. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles is hoping the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, can help farmers deal with ongoing trade disagreements between the U.S. and other countries, notably China.

“Trade disputes and retaliatory trade practices are affecting farmers and the bottom line in 2019,” he said. “The best thing that could happen for Kentucky farmers in the near future is Congress to pass the USMCA, otherwise known as NAFTA 2.0, to help demonstrate that the United States can get its trading book in order.”

Quarles says the timing of ratifying the deal is crucial. “If we can get USMCA passed in the immediate future, particularly during harvest time, it could help boost prices. It could also signal to China that we’re serious and that we need a trade deal that is fair, one that helps American agriculture out and hopefully get it done in 2019.”

China’s retaliatory tariffs affect all agricultural products, but Quarles says soybeans are impacted the most.

“We expect that over $2 per bushel is attributed to market loss due to China’s increased tariff or refusal to buy American soybeans,” he said. “We know they need our products. They are dependent upon American farmers. We export over $140 million each year. The rest of the world needs us.”

Quarles says they are getting some encouragement from Washington regarding the trade impasse. “Every day we get little snippets of information about the ongoing talks with China. We believe they are closer than they are farther apart, than they were just a few months ago.”

He also notes the American farmer is very dependent on international trade.

“We are part of the safest, most efficient supply system in the world,” Quarles said. “Other countries may have a temporary disruption, but a lot of the larger countries we know are dependent upon us.”

While much emphasis has been placed on China trade talks, Quarles says, “The Trump Administration is hitting singles and doubles in other countries such as India, which is close to becoming the most populous country in the world. We have ongoing trade talks with Japan, the third biggest economy in the world, one that buys over $3 billion of pork and beef each year, a lot of which originates in Kentucky.”

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, USMCA benefits the country by:

• Creating a more level playing field for American workers, including improved rules of origin for automobiles, trucks, other products, and disciplines on currency manipulation.

• Benefiting American farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses by modernizing and strengthening food and agriculture trade in North America.

• Supporting a 21st Century economy through new protections for U.S. intellectual property, and ensuring opportunities for trade in U.S. services.

• New chapters covering Digital Trade, Anticorruption, and Good Regulatory Practices, as well as a chapter devoted to ensuring that Small and Medium Sized Enterprises benefit from the Agreement.

“We hope the Trump Administration and his very highly-trained qualified trade negotiators,” Quarles said, “such as Ambassador [Robert] Lighthizer, Gregg Doud [the chief Agriculture negotiator] and Ted McKinney, can help get us closer to the finish line when it comes to a trade deal with China.”

Recommended for you