Illinois and the Midwest have long been the breadbasket of the world. Soybeans, corn, wheat, pork and other products are proudly grown here and feed people all over the world. Likewise, we still make American steel products, cabinets, pharmaceuticals and beverage cans right here in Kankakee.

In order for the goods grown and produced in Illinois to reach markets across the globe, trade is essential. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump’s policies have had a devastating impact on local farmers and manufacturers.

Over the first two days of his trade war, Illinois soybean and pork producers lost $380 million in market value. Local soybean farmers watched their products spoil, while farmers in Russia and Brazil gobbled up their market share in China, the world’s largest market for soybeans. To make matters worse, recent extreme weather and flooding delayed planting and destroyed crops. It was a one-two punch that has pushed a historic number of American farms into bankruptcy.

In order to preserve our proud family-farming heritage and the economic benefits that it creates, we must do more to provide local farmers with greater market access. That’s where the USMCA comes in.

The USMCA, or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, is a newly revised trade deal between the U.S. and our neighbors and largest trading partners. This new deal, designed to address the negative impacts of the 25-year old NAFTA, will expand market access, protect workers and our environment and work to rein in the outrageous costs of some prescription drugs.

While I, like many others, had serious concerns about the first draft of the agreement, I worked with other House Democrats to address these concerns so we could get to yes. It was a long and difficult process, but the results were worth it.

In today’s global economy, trade is vital to the growth of every community in every country. High-quality trade deals, like the newly revised USMCA, will pay dividends for Illinois farmers, workers, manufacturers and families.

I’m glad that we could come together — the White House and Congress — Republicans and Democrats — to get a deal that works for everyone, most importantly our local farmers, workers and businesses: the engines of our economy and future.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly has represented Kankakee County in Congress since 2013.

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