Members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and their counterparts from Mexico and Canada gathered Wednesday in Denver, Colo., to open the 26th annual Tri-National Agricultural Accord.
The Tri-National Agricultural Accord represents a long-standing commitment among the senior state and provincial agricultural officials of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to work together collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues. The vital importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for the agriculture and food processing economies of all three countries is the key focus of this year’s accord.
“We have the largest U.S. delegation in accord history gathered here this week in a strong statement of U.S. agriculture’s commitment to maintaining the vital relationship we have with Mexico and Canada,” said NASDA president and Connecticut commissioner of agriculture Steven Reviczky. “As NAFTA negotiations continue, we, as state leaders, are committed to advocating for a modernized NAFTA that preserves the gains agriculture has made to ensure agricultural trade with our North American neighbors will continue to grow and prosper.”
In a press conference with his counterparts in Mexico and Canada, Reviczky said there are opportunities to modernize NAFTA, and NASDA is encouraging federal officials to pursue greater market access opportunities for U.S. products, especially in Canada. He also said there are areas for improvement to enhance regulatory cooperation and coordination.
Jeff Leal, Ontario's minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said regulatory harmonization is important for agriculture to ensure that goods -- especially perishable ones -- can flow quickly across borders.
Colorado agriculture commissioner Don Brown is hosting this year’s Tri-National Accord. The U.S. delegation is led by Reviczky, with Michigan director of agriculture Jamie Clover Adams chairing the U.S.-Canada Bilateral and Oklahoma secretary of agriculture Jim Reese chairing the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral. The Canadian delegation is led by Leal, and the Mexican delegation is led by Jalisco secretary of rural development Héctor Padilla Gutiérrez.
Concerns over whether the three countries can reach an agreement are rising. Gutiérrez said Mexico is “undoubtedly nervous” that a deal won’t be reached. He said the three countries now have complementary economic systems. “If we aren’t successful or don’t have good outcomes with new negotiation phases, we will all lose. The effects will be felt by every one of the states and provinces of our three countries,” he warned.
Gutiérrez said until a definitive agreement is reached, a lot of uncertainty remains that could affect economic viability. “This does not promote faith or confidence in everyday workers,” he said.
NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association that represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 U.S. states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes among state departments of agriculture, the federal government and stakeholders.