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Last week, the Trump administration announced the removal of steel and aluminum tariffs on our North American neighbors, Mexico and Canada, alleviating a burden on our agriculture producers and removing a barrier for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

With this positive step forward, now is the time for Congress to act and pass USMCA.

This latest move signals that relief for our agriculture industry that has endured a wet spring and low commodity prices, is on the horizon. If bipartisanship prevails, and with the passage of USMCA, Illinois’ top industry and our farming families will be able to take a deep breath as we take a big step forward by modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Historically, trade with our neighbors has been a success story and USMCA strengthens these relationships. From 1993 to 2017, exports to Canada and Mexico tripled from $27 billion to $91 billion, with nearly one-third of US agricultural exports going to Mexico and Canada in 2017.

Aside from modernizing the 25-year-old NAFTA, current terms that have been negotiated for the USMCA would increase U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and the rest of the world by $2.2 billion, with $435 million of that estimated to come from just increased market access.

Illinois particularly has much to gain from passage of USMCA. Canada and Mexico are responsible for a 29 percent and a 14 percent market share of all Illinois exports, respectively. For Illinois agriculture, Canada accounts for 18 percent of all Illinois agricultural exports and Mexico accounts for 10 percent. With Canada and Mexico, alone, Illinois farmers export 40 percent of their corn, 13 percent of their beef and 34 percent of their pork to those two countries.

As the nation’s top soybean producer and a leader in corn production, market accessibility is key to getting Illinois’ commodities around the globe. If passed, USMCA will expand that access for agriculture producers and manufacturers, allowing them to better reach customers in North America. Under the new USMCA, more corn and soybeans would be sold to Mexico and Canada.

With agriculture as Illinois’ top industry, it’s easy to focus solely on our farmers, but in reality, USMCA is more than just ag. This also is about building on a record economy.

USMCA would increase U.S. real GDP by $68.2 billion and create 176,000 U.S. jobs, according to the US International Trade Commission (ITC), helping manufacturers and small business.

The time is now to pass the USMCA. Delay only hurts our farmers, job creation, and our economy. With tariffs now removed, Republicans and Democrats must come to the table to pass this agreement.

The USMCA means relief to farmers, it means jobs, and it means opportunity for Americans across the board, especially those in Illinois. Acting now will expand economic opportunity for the agriculture community in our state. Failing to do so, will make worse the current uncertainty our farmers are feeling.

It’s time Congress work in a bipartisan fashion to get USMCA across the finish line and support the agriculture community in Illinois.

LaHood represents the 18th Congressional District in Central Illinois. 

Guebert is president of the Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau.

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