Farmers for Free Trade is traveling across the country in a rather unique RV. They are showing up at fairs, farm shows, trade shows and even on individual farms. The people traveling inside the RV have one goal in mind, to be a voice for farmers when it comes to the importance of trade.
“Farmer for Free Trade is a 501c4. It was founded a couple of years ago by Senator Max Baucus from Montana and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. It is a bipartisan, nonprofit effort,” said Angela Hofmann, Executive Co-Director of Farmers for Free Trade. “The goal of our organization is to create an awareness, as well as activate farmers whose families, farms and communities are directly impacted by trade.”
Over the past year, the group has been on the road with the Motorcade for Trade traveling across the country, from Washington D.C. to Washington state. They have traveled to 26 states, over 18,000 miles and made over 60 stops.
“No matter where we go, what we're seeing is a lot of uncertainty in the market. In the last weeks, we were at Minnesota Farmfest, the Iowa state fair and then the Illinois State Fair,” said Hofmann. “We've been across the country in this RV promoting trade and particularly the USMCA (US-Mexico-Canada Agreement”
Across the top of their RV, in big, bold letters, it says, ‘Trade with Mexico and Canada supports U.S. farmers.’
“Part of the goal with the RV has been to educate America, and not just rural America, that trade matters,” she said. “There's a vote that should be imminent in Congress. It’s one important thing we can do right now to bring some level of certainty and stability back to markets.”
The USMCA is one of the few bills in Congress that does have bipartisan support. Hofmann and the Farmers for Free Trade group have been speaking to representatives from both parties around the nation. This is something everyone wants to get done.
“We see leadership on both sides and in both houses that are working really hard to get it done,” she said. “I think when we come back in the fall and they're in session, we'd love to see this come to the floor in September or early October.”
As it stands, there are not any major deal-breaking issues with the USMCA. There are a few questions and concerns around enforcement of the agreement, but those are being addressed by smaller working groups within Washington, D.C.
“I am optimistic that we're going to get it done. It is a matter of timing,” she said. “That's a big part of this tour as well, creating a sense of urgency. Farmers can’t wait another three months, and certainly not a year with major issues like China pending.”
The USMCA is not the only focus of the Farmers for Free Trade group, it is just the most pressing at the moment.
The group actually formed after the U.S. pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“That was sort of the ‘aha’ moment, that the importance of trade had become polarized during the election and it was an opportunity to reset the narrative and go directly to the source, work with farmers and ranchers who were most critically impacted,” she said.
On Sept. 12, Farmers for Free Trade and their RV will be back in Washington, D.C., for a trade rally. They will be taking all the signatures they collected over their tour from people supporting the USMCA and the messages they have heard directly to the legislation in the hopes of pushing the USMCA over the goal line.
For individuals who want to get involved, the first step is to call or write their representatives and deliver their own message.
People can also go to the Farmers for Free Trade website, follow them on social media, Facebook and Twitter.
“Right now is a perfect time. Folks are thinking about this issue and it's time to pick up the phone, make a call and get engaged. You can evensend a text, USMCA Letter to 52886,” said Hofmann. “Again, call your member of Congress, let it be known that this is the time to act, and be engaged. It’s not a spectator sport.”