A story out of Ritzville recently gained national attention: Larry Yockey is a fourth-generation wheat farmer, and for nearly 50 years, he hasn’t missed a harvest. Sadly, Larry was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer, allowing him to only spend a short amount of time in the fields. He was worried that his streak would come to an end, but his neighbors wouldn’t allow that to happen.
Larry’s friends, neighbors, and community members surprised the Yockey family by storming in on 18 semis, 17 combines, and 11 bankouts. The harvest that normally takes three weeks was finished in six hours.
Larry was, of course, grateful for the help of the selfless people of Ritzville who answered his call for help.
While this story is heartwarming, I am hardly surprised. This is exactly the type of small-town compassion I see in communities across my district and the type of people I am proud to represent in Congress.
In Central Washington, agriculture penetrates our communities, our relationships, and our culture. We are raised with kindness and the work ethic of a farmer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As someone who has worked in and advocated for Washington’s agriculture industry my entire life, I know how hard our farmers work to produce the food and products enjoyed around the world.
Producing the over 300 unique commodities in Washington state is back-breaking work, and our farmers already face enormous challenges, like droughts and labor shortages. We must do all that we can to provide them stable market access to two of our largest trading partners.
When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was crafted, Washington’s farmers and producers were given a gift – a strong trade agreement with Canada and Mexico and a guaranteed market for many of their agricultural products.
However, as time passed, it became clear that NAFTA was not always an ideal agreement for the United States. It needed to be modernized and brought into the 21st Century, which is what President Trump has done.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is the improved version of NAFTA our farmers deserve.
Not only does the new agreement maintain duty-free market access for our agricultural goods, but it expands Canadian access for our dairy and wine industries.
In this time of trade uncertainty, we need this strong agreement with Canada and Mexico. The Administration has done their job, now Congress must do ours to implement the trade agreement.
I have heard from my constituents across Central Washington who support the USMCA, and I recently attended a trade rally in Pasco that highlighted the importance of this agreement to our state.
Mexico has approved the agreement, and the Canadian government has begun moving their implementation bill. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority has yet to bring the USMCA to the U.S. House floor for a vote.
This delay is directly hurting Washington’s agriculture industry. I will continue to call on my colleagues to ratify the USMCA, so we can finally give our farmers the strong trade agreement they deserve.
Congressman Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside serves the 4th Congressional District in Washington, D.C.