IFB to Rep. Kelly: We need USMCA

10 farmer leaders share agriculture's need for a win.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, far right, asks and answers questions of farmers and agribusiness representatives during a discussion at the farm of Steve Warrick in Will County last August. Kelly spoke with farmers by phone last week to discuss to hear about ways she can support them. (Photo by Ryan Whitehouse)

By Deana Stroisch

Frustrated and “in need of a win,” Illinois farmer leaders last week urged U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly to support the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“With the spring we’re having, I’m sitting here basically watching my crop deteriorate, in some cases, before it’s even planted,” said Steve Fourez, Illinois Farm Bureau District 12 director. “It’s really important that we get some of these trade issues squared away.”

Fourez was one of 10 members of IFB’s Board of Directors who met with Kelly by phone last week. The Democrat from Matteson wanted to know how tariffs and current trade disputes have affected them.

Jeff Kirwan, District 3 director, explained how some farmers must soon decide whether to file a prevented planting claim.

“There are a lot of decisions that we have to make, and none of them are easy,” Kirwan said. “Any wins we can get – whether it’s USMCA, whether it’s renewable fuels and trying to get E15 approved. We need wins here in agriculture, and I think that’s an important message.”

Michele Aavang, IFB District 1 director, grows corn, soybeans and has a small beef herd. Her son is a dairy farmer.

“I worry about his future,” Aavang told Kelly. “Passage of USMCA will help provide stability for him going forward, and myself as well, as I try to hang onto the farm which has been in the family since the 1840s.”

Asked for her stance on USMCA after the meeting, Kelly told FarmWeek: “I see the USMCA as an important step toward increasing market access for U.S.-grown and U.S.-made goods. Given the third and fourth order impacts associated with large trade deals, I want to thoroughly study this legislation. Right now, I have some concerns associated with labor rights. My goal is to work toward a final product that can get a ‘yes’ vote from everyone.”

Kelly said she organized the conference call because she wants to “continue to be a strong voice for farmers and rural communities.”

“Our farmers are struggling, and the failed trade war is making matters much worse,” she said. “I plan to pursue every possible avenue to support our farmers, including supporting market facilitation efforts, increasing access to capital for younger farmers with the bipartisan BALE Act that I recently re-introduced with Rep. Mike Bost and working to pass good trade deals that expand global market access for Illinois farmers.”

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.