By Steve Nelson
While the results weren’t what Nebraska football fans had hoped for when Ohio State rolled into Lincoln a few weeks back, you can’t question Husker fans’ enthusiasm and the excitement leading into the game as showcased by the thousands who came early and stayed late to be a part of the celebration of ESPN’s College Gameday visit to Memorial Stadium. Half the fun of College Gameday is ESPN analyst Lee Corso’s prediction for the game, and inevitably, the live crowd’s reaction of roundly and loudly cheering or jeering Corso for his pick. Colorful takes are Corso’s calling card. One of his best is when he talks about the “Big MO”; his affectionate reference to the impact of momentum swings during a football game and the importance of keeping “Big MO” on your side.
When it comes to international trade and bringing certainty to the marketplace, American agriculture and Nebraska’s farm and ranch families need some big plays to flip the script and put the “Big MO” to work for them. It’s been a rough go on the trade front and an even tougher year in the way of a weakened farm economy, with many agriculture families battling some of the worst Mother Nature has had to offer.
The U.S. implementing a new trade deal with Japan would be a major step forward, and is very much a big play waiting to happen. All that remains on the signed U.S./Japan deal is for the Japanese Parliament to give the final nod of approval. Once implemented, Nebraska farmers, specifically beef and pork producers, will have access to a much more level playing field, in terms of tariff reductions and quota purchases, with their major competitors who’ve already got a good deal going through their participation in the broader Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The most recent talks between the president and China are also a positive sign. Actions that signal there could be better things around the corner on regaining some, if not all, previous access to the roughly 1.4 billion people in China would be good. If 1.4 billion sounds like a lot of people, it is. That’s four Chinese mouths to feed for every American. There’s clearly still opportunity in China for American agriculture. Getting to a better place with China would also address the reality that while appreciative of the President’s financial assistance for farmers due to tariff losses, farmers don’t want government checks, but instead want unfettered market access.
With these momentum changers in progress, there’s another key momentum flipper that would show the rest of the world the U.S. is serious about doing business. Congress is still holding pat on the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Mexico and Canada are Nebraska’s two largest trading partners and consumers of Nebraska agriculture products. Getting USMCA done would solidify markets with our allies to the to the north and the south, as well as make some much-needed updates to the more than 20-year-old North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that paved the way for market growth for American agriculture for decades. As of this writing, USMCA is in queue and only awaits Congress to schedule a vote, a decision that rests in the hands of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. If there’s ever been a time for Congress to put politics aside, it’s now. Americans want and need this critical trade deal done.
A Japan deal and China talks are important, but Congress has the ability right now to build partnerships, grow international markets, and send the right message to the rest of the world. Congressional passage of USMCA is a much-needed big play to put the “Big MO” back on the side of American agriculture.