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is a fifth-generation rice farmer from Lissie, Texas
Farmers and small business owners across Texas know that trade
is a vital economic factor in our economy. Texas leads the nation in trade with
Canada and Mexico, which accounts for 44 percent of our agricultural exports.
There is no doubt that one of the most important issues pending in Congress is
support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA). This is the new version
of what’s been called NAFTA for more than 25 years, and it’s essential to the future
of Texas agriculture.
There is no agriculture product coming out of the U.S. that
depends more on the Mexico export market than rice. The U.S. exports $1.8
billion worth of rice each year to thriving international markets.
For my family, this market means our livelihood is at stake. For
10 years, I have grown rice on 1,000 acres in Lissie — about an hour west of
Houston. Right now, I am getting $9.40 per hundred-weight of rice, compared to
the $18 per hundred-weight we were receiving seven years ago. My land is
southwest of Houston, and in this region, at least 50 percent of the rice we
produce is exported to Mexico. Though the market price is down, the demand
The depressed prices mean smaller farmers have been unable to
pay off their bank loans after harvest in recent years. They are rolling debt
over from one year to the next, and with prices low, it’s unlikely they will be
able to stay in business much longer. The Mexican rice market has been a
lifeline to Texas industry during this period of historically low pricing.
As the rice market struggles, it’s critical that Congress comes
together in a bipartisan way and passes the USMCA to keep us viable. Farmers
create jobs and drive economic growth, but the agricultural industry has
suffered the most because of the uncertainty that is driving prices down and
driving input costs up in all sectors.
My community in Lissie, and communities across Texas need a
major trade victory right now to reduce the anxiety among farmers who are
finding it difficult under these conditions to strategically plan for the
future. North American trade is about long-term, sustainable relations that are
built on trust. The USMCA would help us rebuild these relationships before they
are beyond repair.
Despite the $9.40 market price, there is a worse scenario for us
to worry about. If the USMCA doesn’t pass, the U.S. could end up pulling out of
NAFTA completely. This would be a huge loss for farmers everywhere.
Rice farming is not the only Texas industry that would be
severely damaged by a devastating decision to leave NAFTA. We could lose $13
billion in exports that go from Texas to Mexico, and $3.3 billion in exports
from here to Canada. That would be a 14 percent cut to our overall export market.
Many other sectors, including manufacturing and small business, could see a
loss of 154,000 jobs.
Our Texas congressional delegation is large and
influential. It has a proud history of working together to do what’s right for
farmers and communities. We now call on those leaders to continue leading the
fight for the USMCA.
March 11, 2019
March 5, 2019