Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, said the conclusions in a study from the University of Georgia — his alma mater — about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement are “flat wrong.”
Perdue wrote an opinion piece about the study that was published by The Macon Telegraph and also sent out as a news release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The study, “The Impact of the USMCA on Georgia’s Small Fruit and Vegetable Industries,” concluded Georgia’s blueberry and vegetable industries will suffer considerable losses if the deal is ratified. The study said Georgia would lose nearly one billion dollars in annual economic output and more than 8,000 jobs.
“The sensational assertions are flat wrong,” Perdue said in his column. “As a proud UGA alumnus, I’m here to tell you USMCA is good for Georgia’s farmers and all American agriculture.”
Perdue said the USMCA improves “virtually every component” of the North American Free Trade Agreement — which it replaces — and Georgia’s agriculture stands to gain significantly.
“It’s important to note we didn’t get all the improvements we wanted for seasonal fruits and vegetables,” Perdue said in his column. “While we were hopeful we could make progress in the renewed NAFTA, USMCA isn’t a step backward.”
Perdue said the University of Georgia study assumed the state’s growers lost ground, but that isn’t the case.
“Since the inception of NAFTA more than 20 years ago, agricultural trade between our three countries has boomed,” Perdue said in the column. “U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico increased by about 300% and our imports increased by almost 500%, benefiting producers and consumers on both sides of our borders.”
What’s more, over the past 10 years under NAFTA, Perdue said Georgia growers have seen:
- Georgia vegetable sales increase by more than 23%;
- Georgia fruit and nut sales have gone up more than 100%;
- Crop receipts have gone up more than 50%;
- Farm income in Georgia grew by more than 20%; and
- Blueberry harvested acres increased by 37%, pepper acreage increased 157% and eggplant acreage increased by 45%.
“While fresh cucumber and tomato acreage decreased 8% for each crop, those changes are nowhere near the assumed damages by the UGA researchers,” Perdue said in the column. “Furthermore, it is not unreasonable that my fellow Georgians would switch to crops that provide higher levels of profit. That is the beauty of our agricultural system — producers plant for the market, not for the program.”
Perdue said the USMCA benefits Georgia’s entire agricultural industry.
“By ensuring better market access and solidifying commitments to fair and science-based trade rules with our top trading partners, USMCA is a big win,” he wrote.