News Local/State

Illinois Farm Bureau: Trade Deal Will Help After ‘Tough’ 2019

This photo taken Oct. 16, 2013, shows dairy cows on a farm in Okawville, Ill.

This photo taken Oct. 16, 2013, shows dairy cows on a farm in Okawville, Ill. Jeff Roberson/AP

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert said Tuesday the new U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico will make two of the state's top export markets even stronger.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert speaks to members at the bureau's annual conference in Chicago.

Photo Credit: Illinois Farm Bureau/Facebook

“We are just ecstatic,” Guebert declared. “Between corn and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, you name it, we’ll send it to Mexico and or Canada.”

Illinois farmers exported $2.8 billion in goods to Canada and Mexico in 2018. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau oilseeds and grains led the way at $796 million. The bureau said Illinois exported $660 million in corn to Mexico, which accounted for about 30% of the state’s global corn exports last year.

Guebert said the Farm Bureau lobbied for the trade deal after what he called a "tough" year for farmers, due partly to the trade war with China which has shrunk U.S. export markets.

“We were really encouraging our legislators and the administration that we need a quick win,” Guebert said. “Our farmers need to have some light at the end of the tunnel, and this is just a little bit more light.”

Democrats announced Tuesday they support the proposed trade deal, once they secured stronger labor, environmental and pharmaceutical provisions. That will likely lead to a quick vote on the NAFTA replacement.

Congressional Republicans had lobbied for the trade deal for weeks. Central Illinois congressmen Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood had co-signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday calling for a vote on the USMCA by the end of the year.

Guebert added Illinois dairy farmers could be the biggest winners in the trade agreement.

“We were getting very little into Canada with dairy because of their quota system, what they had in place,” he said. “They were just not allowing any U.S. milk or cheese projects to get into their marketplace.”

Guebert said corn, ethanol and dairy are the top Illinois exports to Mexico.

The Illinois Farm Bureau is putting out a call to action, encouraging its members to call their representatives in Congress to pass the trade bill.

Eric Stock is a reporter for WGLT in Normal. Follow him on Twitter @EricWGLT.