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Editorial: New trade deal benefits Wisconsin dairy

The United States, Mexico and Canada took a decisive step Sunday toward a new trade deal. The North American Free Trade Agreement, that 1994 contract that governed some $1.2 trillion in trade among the three nations and that President Donald Trump reviled, is effectively gone.

Instead of the acronym NAFTA, people eventually will have USMCA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — provided, of course, if everyone from top leaders to U.S. Congress, the Canadian Parliamentary System and Mexico's Congreso de la Unión signs. And the agreement won't start until 2020.

What might it mean for the Dairy State? Potentially, Wisconsin could be a big winner because USMCA will open the Canadian milk market, increasing opportunities for U.S. dairy farmers. The Washington Post reported Monday that U.S. negotiators say they got a major victory by forcing Canada to eliminate the pricing scheme for Class 7 dairy products. That means U.S. dairy farmers can probably send a lot more milk protein concentrate, skim milk powder and infant formula to Canada.

The new agreement will eliminate aspects of Canada's dairy program that were being used to undercut U.S. dairy products, according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, but also U.S. farmers gain access to 3.6 percent of Canada's dairy market.

Wisconsin Farm Federation President Jim Holte seems most excited about sharing best practices and more: "The USMCA includes measures to address cooperation, information sharing and other trade rules related to agricultural biotechnology and gene editing. This is the first time we are seeing measures like this in a trade agreement," Holte said in a news release Monday.

USMCA will govern much more including car manufacturing, steel tariffs, environmental rules, intellectual property rights, anti-dumping, labor laws and pharmaceuticals, to name some key ones.

At first glance, the agreement looks good for Wisconsin for dairy reasons alone. Like the Farm Bureau, we look forward to the public discussions and votes ahead.

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