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LEMOORE — Vice President of the United States Mike Pence made a trip to the Central Valley Wednesday, visiting Doug and Julie Freitas and Sons Farms in Lemoore to talk about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Pence said he wanted to visit California, and especially the Central Valley, because it’s one of the most agriculturally diverse and dynamic areas in the world. He also said the people here understand the global impact of the agriculture economy and the need for trade deals that put “America first.”

“The truth is, we need the USMCA for the San Joaquin Valley, we need it for California and we need it for America,” Pence said.

The USMCA was signed by Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on November 30, 2018.

The agreement is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was enacted in January 1994 under President Bill Clinton.

However, in order for the agreement to take effect, it must be approved by the U.S. Congress.

Pence, who grew up on a farm in his home state of Indiana, said NAFTA did not serve American workers, jobs or farmers well. He said the USMCA will put American jobs and workers first, and create more opportunity and investment across the Valley and the nation.

“It’s a win for American farmers and a win for American business,” Pence said.

Former congressman David Valadao said it was vital to modernize the two-decade old NAFTA agreement to help many agricultural industries, including the struggling dairy industry.

“There is no doubt that this is a better deal for Central Valley farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers,” Valadao said of the USMCA. “Everyone here today will benefit from this deal.”

Pence said it’s essential to get the USMCA passed by the Congress and encouraged the crowd to contact their representatives about the agreement.

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“It’s going to finally give American farmers and American workers the level playing field that we need here all across North America,” he said.

Pence also brought greetings from Trump, who he said sounded “a little jealous” when Pence told him he was spending the day in the Valley.

“Under this administration and this president, we’re not going to allow outdated trade deals to hurt American farmers and American workers anymore,” he said.

Trump tweeted Wednesday about what he called ‘USMCA Day of Action,” saying thousands of grassroots supporters are urging Congress to pass the agreement.

The tweet ended by saying: “USMCA = more JOBS for American workers, more economic growth, and more OPPORTUNITY for our farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

The vice president also talked a little about the nation’s economy, which he described as “booming.”

“There’s only one way you can describe the last two and a half years: it’s been two and a half years of action,” Pence said to applause from the crowd. “It’s been two and a half years of results. It’s been two and a half years of promises made and promises kept.”

The event also included a panel of guest speakers that included Julie Freitas, Joshua Freitas, Steve Cozzetto, president of Century rubber, Jeff Johnson, vice president of the export division for Harris Ranch Beef, Kraig Baron, president of Western Shaw and Curtis Ellis, senior policy advisor for America First Policies.

The panel spoke about the importance of farming and the USMCA, as did Ted McKinney, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under secretary for trade and foreign agriculture affairs.

Pence and his wife, Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence, landed at Naval Air Station Lemoore Wednesday morning. Karen Pence spent her day on the base speaking about the importance of military spouse employment.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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