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Vice President Mike Pence continued his promotional tour for the new North American trade agreement on May 16 with a visit to J&D Manufacturing, a family-owned business in Eau Claire that creates ventilation systems for agriculture.

Pence told about 100 people gathered at J&D Manufacturing that the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, would "level the playing field" and Congress should pass it this year.

The visit included a roundtable discussion with stakeholders from the agricultural and manufacturing communities and legislators to discuss the USMCA. Members of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) joined the discussion, which focused on the need for trade agreements between allied countries and the importance of trade to Wisconsin’s economy. 

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative board member and dairy farmer Wayne Gajewski, of Athens, expressed the need to pass the USMCA during this discussion.

“Trade agreements have proven to be very important for U.S. dairy, which is why it is imperative to pass the USMCA,” says Gajewski in a press release. “Every day that passes without ratifying USMCA is another day that the U.S. dairy industry risks losing valuable market share.”

Discussions focused on the value that trade agreements like USMCA had on industries including dairy, soybeans and manufacturing, to name a few. Pence highlighted several of the positive changes made to the USMCA, including greater access to Canada and continuing a great trading relationship with Mexico.

“Trade is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to U.S. milk prices, and the strong trade relationships that have been built over time are hanging in the balance as the USMCA waits to be passed by Congress. We appreciate Vice President Mike Pence for his words today focused on the value that USMCA provides to U.S. dairy, and look forward to it’s swift passage soon,” says Jeff Lyon, General Manager for FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, in a press release. “It is also important that the retaliatory tariffs are lifted to restore trade relations and continue to work towards free and fair trade.”

The USMCA was originally signed by President Trump back on Nov. 30, 2018. In a press release, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative stated it supports the USMCA as it should yield benefits to U.S. dairy producers if fully enacted.

“It is important to all members of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative that our concerns are heard,” says Gajewski. “We look forward to the passage of the USMCA and for the tariffs to be lifted — and hopefully soon on both accounts.”

Related: 'When the heartland succeeds, America succeeds': VP Pence pushes proposed new trade deal

In addition to Wayne Gajewski, nine other FarmFirst members were in attendance showing support of passing USMCA including board members Brian Wozniak of Stanley, Jean Reisinger of Spring Green, and Rich Meyer of Unity.

“Wisconsin’s agricultural economy greatly benefits from trade and the relationships with our neighboring countries,” said WFBF President Jim Holte. “Any more market access we can grant our anxious farmers would be welcomed.”

During the roundtable discussion Holte emphasized the need to pass the USMCA soon, noting that as time passes the more market share farmers and processors lose, according to a press release.

“Farmers and food processors have been impacted by both the steel and aluminum prices as well as the retaliatory tariffs,” Holte added. “We need a resolution to these immediately.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.

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