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Vilsack, Grassley Team Up To Support North American Trade Deal

Amy Mayer
Iowa Public Radio
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (left) and Democrat Tom Vilsack toured a dairy in Des Moines to show their support for a new North American trade deal.

The United States and Canada must ratify an agreement that Mexico has already approved to put into place a trade deal the three countries negotiated to update and replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was also a two-term Democratic governor of Iowa, toured the bottling plant at Anderson Erickson dairy in Des Moines Monday to show their bipartisan support for the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement.

“When everybody thinks everything in Washington is partisan and there’s an opportunity to stress bipartisanship, and with somebody of Gov. Vilsack’s background, particularly as secretary of agriculture for eight years in the previous administration, it brings credibility to the chance that this is something that we can get done,” Grassley said. “It’s something that must get done, and we will get it done.”

Grassley noted that Vilsack has already testified before the Senate Finance Committee, which Grassley chairs and which has oversight of trade.

Vilsack is currently the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, a lobbying group for the industry. He said one way dairy would benefit from the new terms of the North American deal is that it would expand the market for U.S. dairy products in Canada.

“At the end of the day, it is the hope of the dairy industry and dairy farmers across the U.S. that we get this ratified before the end of the year,” Vilsack said. “We don’t want this bleeding into 2020 and all the political ramifications of that year.”

Grassley said if the House, which must consider the agreement first, passes it, he is confident the Senate will follow.

Vilsack added that ratification could bring hope and some certainty to farm country. Agriculture has been battered by ongoing trade disputes, which have led to tariffs that depress demand for U.S. products overseas.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames