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story.lead_photo.caption Blake Hurst Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

With a new trade agreement in place since last week between the United States, Canada and Mexico, Missouri Farm Bureau's president said benefits will not necessarily appear overnight for Missouri farmers and ranchers, but people in agriculture can at least have more peace of mind in the meantime.

MFB President Blake Hurst said the "biggest thing we've got is certainty" from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

USMCA is the replacement for the previous North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Donald Trump signed USMCA on Jan. 29, but it did not take full effect until July 1.

Trump claimed the new trade agreement as a victory of his administration, "making good on his promise to deliver fairer and more reciprocal trade for the American people," according to a White House news release.

The domestic political selling points of the new agreement include it will protect and expand American jobs, boost the auto industry and improve American farmers' export access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

Hurst said that means more access to the Canadian dairy market, as well as fairer grading of U.S. wheat.

He said wheat that's exported to Canada is graded on its quality, and the quality given determines how the wheat can be sold.

Hurst said "no matter what condition it was in or what quality it was," U.S. wheat was being graded only as worthy of feed for animals — which meant it traded at a discount price.

He also said the new trade agreement will mean more acceptance of American products. He said each country has a different regimen for approving new products, and Canada and Mexico will be more accepting of the science that proves those products are safe.

Hurst said, for example, Mexico had not approved any biotech trades for two years — not living up to the previous agreement.

He said increases to the quantity or value of exports will be slow and gradual, but with an agreement now in place, farmers can make plans for their businesses and not have to worry about a trade war that could have resulted in tariffs being placed on American products.

As people in Missouri agriculture settle into a new normal under USMCA, Hurst said meat processing is "almost back to normal" after disruptions caused by COVID-19, as the pandemic shut down or reduced capacity at processing plants because of infections among workers.

However, "we've still got a kind of an overhang to work through" on the meat market, meaning with beef and pork, there's now a surplus of meat on the market.

When plants couldn't take animals for slaughter, those animals continued to eat and gain weight.

Hurst said cows could gain 2 or 3 pounds a day, and weigh 20 or 30 pounds more than what they would have. That means more meat on the market when the animals are slaughtered, and that drives prices down for farmers.

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