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USMCA now law, farmers predict local impact

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DANE COUNTY, Wis. – Local dairy farmers are giving their mixed reactions to the USMCA signed into law Wednesday morning.

President Donald Trump called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement “the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved.” The bipartisan trade deal will affect a number of industries, including agriculture.

Among the key provisions, the USMCA will expand U.S. access to Canada’s dairy market and keep NAFTA’s existing zero-tariff treatment. Canada will also eliminate its milk classes 6 and 7, changing the pricing program.

“Today we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare,” President Trump said at Wednesday’s White House signing ceremony.

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Cambridge dairy and crop farmer Duane Hinchley said the USMCA is “NAFTA all over again.”

“Everything’s up in chaos,” Hinchley said. “And it’s kind of coming right back to being the same program it was. We’re not gaining (anything) out of it.”

According to most recent numbers from the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the top importers of U.S. dairy products are Mexico, Southeast Asia, Canada and China.

Hinchley and his wife Tina said without China in the picture, they aren’t too optimistic.

Mitch Breunig, another dairy and crop farmer, said trade is equivalent to relationships among people. He said he believes the USMCA will set a strong foundation for results to trickle down over time.

“We need to look forward, and we need to build a thriving business because I have children,” Breunig said. “My friends have children. We want them to be able to come back to the dairy industry and build this industry for the future.”

Despite their differing opinions, these farmers say they’re united, especially in their hardships.

“Being this an election year, we’re less than 2 percent of the population. I’m thinking we might get missed in who they’re picking to focus on,” Tina Hinchley said.

Breunig and the Hinchleys say the well-being of farmers matter for everyone, so a vote that favors farmers in the upcoming election matters.

A Gallup poll says 18 percent of Americans say trade with other nations is “extremely important” to their vote. The same poll said the top three issues are healthcare, national security and gun policy.

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