Maintaining a strong economy is always on the forefront for any elected official, whether it be local, state or federal offices.
U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith said when he’s looking at economic issues, he always looks at how it will impact Nebraska, especially ag producers.
“I always try to break things down in terms of what will be the impact to individual producers,” Smith said. “How will that impact the community and the region? And then, how will that impact consumers ultimately? When you look at the uniqueness of western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming agriculture, whether it’s sugar beets, whether it’s dry beans or other crops, these are scenarios that ultimately we want consumers to have stable opportunities for helping feed the country and also helping feed the world.”
With adverse weather statewide, flooding in Eastern Nebraska and an irrigation canal tunnel collapse impacting growers in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming over the last growing season, Smith said it’s a tribute to those involved that they worked for solutions in the aftermath.
“Really salute the local stakeholders, especially on the collapse of the canal,” Smith said. “The local stakeholders are very diligent in finding solutions. I’ve been working with the federal agencies relevant to the situation to bring folks together to find a common solution moving forward.”
The anticipated approval of the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is a major step forward for the U.S. economy, but Smith said there is still plenty of work to be done. The USMCA would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiating teams from the three countries are working out the final details, and the measure will have to pass votes in the U.S. House and Senate before final approval. The USMCA has been one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities.
“Moving forward, Canada has some work to do in terms of opening up a lot of retail traffic crisscrossing the border every day,” Smith said. “Canada is very protectionist with that. They are seeking to try to force Canadian consumers to make their retail purchases on the Canadian side of the border. That just is difficult to do long-term. We have our retail struggles in the U.S. with Main Street having to compete with Amazon, for example. That’s very difficult, but it’s also something that you can’t really legislate directly against. We want to foster growth, and growth is fostered by more open trade so that innovation can present more opportunities for Main Street rather than looking to the government for every solution.”
Online retailers such as Amazon cause other retailers to re-think their approach, and Smith said that applies to large chains such as Target all the way to local stores such as Tossed and Found, offering antiques, furniture and home decor on consignment.
“It should also be noted that Target is doing well in terms of having a physical presence as well as having an online presence,” Smith said. “I think they’re really leveraging their brick and mortar infrastructure in engaging consumers. When you look at smaller operations of Main Street, we want there to be opportunities to innovate with technology and services. I think that a growing economy can do that. I look at a local store like Tossed and Found that offered something that the community didn’t have previously. I think that’s not only a great service to the community, but an economic opportunity for the owners as well.”
Finalizing the USMCA is a stepping stone to other trade agreements, and Smith said there are plenty of opportunities being explored, especially with the United Kingdom and Japan.
“USMCA clearly is probably the largest issue here as we are addressing things at the close of the year,” Smith said. “I think opening up trade with Japan is also very big because of the size of the Japanese economy. Certainly we know that they tend to like our products, especially in terms of red meat and other agriculture products, so I think that offers a huge opportunity, and we will look back at opening trade with Japan. That helps set the table for even more trade agreements with other countries moving forward.”