U.S. Capital Summer

The process is taking time, but Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he still expects to see Congress approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before lawmakers leave town for their annual August recess.

The agreement is an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement that became law in 1994. Many rural lawmakers and agricultural leaders pushed to keep the United States from pulling out of NAFTA before and are pushing for Congress to approve the USMCA now.

But there has been some opposition in both parties. Grassley said the biggest roadblock now is with Democrats in the House, but he said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is working with Trump administration officials to address concerns some lawmakers have with the USMCA.

Most of those concerns are in regards to items such as environmental or labor issues or with enforcement.

Pelosi has the challenge of satisfying a large freshman class of Democrats in the House who were not in Congress during the USMCA negotiations and who may not be familiar with the details of NAFTA. That simply takes time, negotiation and education, Grassley said. He said Pelosi “wants to get to yes” on USMCA, and he expects that will happen.

“USMCA is a top priority of mine,” Grassley told reporters during a June 25 conference call.

But the process has not been fast, and it is difficult to speed it up.

The senator also told reporters that he and Sen. Dick Durban, D-Ill., sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency questioning why the EPA continues to use old models regarding the environmental impact of corn-based ethanol. The USDA now has information indicating that ethanol production has improved to the point that the environmental impact is less than indicated by older models.

“The EPA ought to get up to date,” Grassley said.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.