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Oct 26, 2020

Tester Pushes White House to Enforce USMCA, Resolve Canada’s Grain Grading Issues Immediately

Following reports that despite the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) earlier this year, Canada has continued to downgrade American wheat imported into the country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today urged U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to immediately reach out to the Canadian trade representatives to resolve the issues and enforce the Agreement.

“In theory, USMCA ends the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat, which is the lowest grade and therefore the cheapest to import,” wrote Tester “…As USMCA goes into effect, the State of Montana is hearing that the Canadian government is unwilling to make changes to the [Varietal Registration System] that would bring any real equity to the grain grading system. If Canada continues to refuse to accept U.S. varieties into the VRS, then U.S. grain growers are back at square one, and will be forced to sell their high-quality product as a low-quality import.”

Tester continued: “USMCA held such promise, but if we are unable to deliver any real outcomes for Montana farmers from the deal, we are failing folks in production agriculture. Without robust enforcement, negotiated trade agreements will be unable to bring certainty and market stability to American farmers and ranchers.”

Senator Tester supported the USMCA and voted for it when it passed the Senate in January. His support was based in large part on the fix to Canada’s unfair wheat grading practices, and he has long argued that, without strict enforcement, the trade agreement cannot provide a substantial benefit to Montana producers.

USMCA addressed a critical discrepancy in U.S.-Canada wheat trade by prohibiting either country from discriminating against the other’s grain, ending the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat—the lowest grade and therefore cheapest to import. However, USMCA does not address the inherently discriminatory Canadian Varietal Registration System (VRS), a list of wheat varieties that may be sold on Canadian markets. Wheat varieties not registered in the VRS must be sold as feed wheat, regardless of USMCA, and the VRS excludes many varieties grown in Northern tier states like Montana. Canada has indicated that it is unwilling to make changes to the VRS, allowing it to continue to unfairly downgrade Montana wheat.

“While I continue to hear the Administration and my Republican colleagues tout the success of USMCA in press releases, the fact remains that there is still work to do for Montana’s wheat farmers,” concluded Tester. “That’s why I ask that you immediately work to remedy the grain grading discrepancy, rather than tout USMCA as an untarnished success.”

Tester has been an outspoken critic of President Trump's trade war and has pushed to hold the Administration accountable by passing legislation to give Congress a role in imposing tariffs. He has heard about the impact of these tariffs firsthand, holding in-person listening sessions with Montana farmers, ranchers, and small business owners about the consequences of the trade war.

Tester’s full letter can be found HERE.

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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