USMCA trade deal impact on Alabama farmers

ATHENS, Ala. -- The last part of the new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada was finalized September 30.

The appropriately named United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, may impact industries here in north Alabama if approved by all three countries' legislatures.

One of those industries and a major economic driver for the state of Alabama -- agriculture. The new agreement is estimated to bring U.S. farmers a $70 million increase in exports to Canada's dairy market and greater access in the egg and poultry markets.

"The dairy industry has definitely struggled," said James Newby, a partner at Newby Farms in Athens.

While Alabama only has a handful of dairy farmers left, the new deal hits home.

"It's a big win for the American farmer just to help stabilize the market some and keep that trade open," said Newby.

Newby works his family's crop farm where their feed literally fuels those markets through soybean, corn and cotton production.

To emphasize just how interconnected this industry is, you may not know that cottonseed is one of the byproducts of cow feed.

"If they see a demand for their milk, we could see an uptick in cottonseed prices," explained Newby.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell applauding the treaty with our two largest export markets:

“This is good news for farmers and our nation as a whole. Canada and Mexico are our two largest export markets. This agreement not only preserves our partnership with these neighbors, but it also shows the United States can get a better deal for American farmers, businesses and families through strong negotiations.”

While continuing to review the agreement's impacts on our state, Senator Doug Jones (D) gave us a statement:

“I appreciate the President’s efforts to fix some of the problems we’ve seen with NAFTA. Under the revised agreement, Alabama farmers will have access to expanded markets, which is especially important given the concerns with other aspects of ongoing trade discussions.  At the same time, however, I am concerned about new provisions in the deal that could hurt our auto workers. Alabama automakers have rebuilt our state economy over the past 20 years, but this agreement could potentially wind up incentivizing them to shift production outside of North America. I also have questions about how implementation and enforcement will work. The agreement is an important step in our trade policy and I will continue to review the details of the agreement and reach out to the business community of Alabama to get a full picture of the USMCA’s potential impacts.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R) also releasing a statement:

“I stand for trade agreements that create jobs for Americans.  I believe that an improved North American Free Trade Agreement is good for both our economy and the American worker.”

"In this country, we produce the safest and most affordable food in the world and we're good at it. The American farmer is good at what they do," said Newby.

You could say it's a glass half full situation for U.S. farmers.