Nebraska’s civics teachers could carry home a lesson from this week’s efforts to get the U.S. Congress to ratify the new and improved North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or as it soon will be called, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Civics teachers should watch closely this week. Along with instructing students about the structure of government and how legislation takes place, this week offers a lesson in the subject of writing your congressman or congresswoman.

In a letter sent to Congress, more than 950 groups representing the U.S. food and agriculture industries at the national, state and local levels called on their representatives to support ratification of USMCA. Here in Nebraska, grain farmers stand to gain a lot by acquiring more stable access to corn markets in Mexico and Canada. U.S. manufacturers also would gain by lower costs and increased access to Canadian metal suppliers.

Those 950 businesses, individuals and organizations — including some who do business right here in south-central Nebraska — are pressing hard to get Congress moving on its ratification process.

So far, none of the legislatures in any of the three nations has conducted a ratification vote because each have bones to pick. For example, Canada would like to see U.S. tariffs lifted on Canadian metal exports. Mexico’s hesitancy is centered on labor issues while the United States also is mired in issues that span the gamut.

The letter has been signed by, among many others, CHS Inc., based in Minnesota, and Cooperative Producers Inc., headquartered in Hastings. Both groups are cooperatives that operate elevators in our region.

They reiterate in the letter that USMCA will benefit the U.S. agriculture and food industry while providing consumers an abundant supply of safe, high-quality human and animal food at competitive prices.

Will the letters and their 950 signees get action out of the U.S. Congress? We would hope so, but there’s a danger American lawmakers won’t budge until they see their counterparts in Canada and Mexico conducting ratification votes.

Action is important — now — especially for U.S, stakeholders. If the ratification vote is put off much longer, ag producers run the risk of having the USMCA vote falter as the issue drags into primary election season. Whenever there’s an election happening, politicians are more prone to distraction. If politics takes over, USMCA could be indefinitely postponed.

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