“Enacting USMCA will be a victory for America’s one million restaurants and their 15 million employees. Delivering the tastes, innovations, quality and value for which they are known means ensuring a steady and predictable global supply chain.”

Laura Abshire, Director of Food and Sustainability Policy, National Restaurant Association

Continental Accord Is Close

Failure to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has kept North American agriculture in a state of uncertainty since November 2018, when leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the initial draft. Now, more than a year later, a revised version’s likely passage through Congress is imminent after months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Trade leaders from all three countries signed the updated agreement on December 10 at a ceremony in Mexico City. It is expected to clear all legislatures in the coming months.

  • U.S. industry groups representing chicken, pork, beef, dairy, milk, corn, soy, rice, wheat and cotton and food trade groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association all expressed praise for the progress.
  • On her Farmer’s Daughter blog, Amanda Zaluckyj captured many industry quotes and suggested that advancing USMCA will “create leverage when negotiating with China and other countries.”
  • Food and Water Watch represented an opposing point of view, saying that USMCA “spells disaster for food safety, air and water quality, and climate change in America.”
  • Reuters described USMCA as “a fresh overhaul of a quarter-century-old trade pact.”
  • CNN listed “5 key differences between NAFTA and Trump’s USMCA deal,” highlighting dairy farmers improved access to export markets.
  • After reaching a deal on the finalized version of USMCA, President Trump tweeted “It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody – Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions – tremendous support.”
  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released a statement calling USMCA “a big win for American workers and the economy, especially for our farmers and ranchers.” He added, “the House and Senate need to work diligently to pass USMCA by Christmas.”
  • As the food industry eagerly awaits resolution on a trade deal with China, reports suggest terms have been met ahead of new tariffs that are set to go into effect on December 15 (Reuters).

Global Food Security

The holidays may be seen as a time of excess, but this week the media shined a spotlight on food security as economic policies, civil conflict and the environment impact this issue on a global level.

Worth Noting

A few other significant happenings captured the attention of the influential voices The Intel Distillery tracks.

  • Nestlé sold its ice cream business to European private equity company Froneri, which will create the world’s second-largest ice cream manufacturer behind Unilever (USA Today).
  • The FDA released its annual antibiotic use in livestock report. Former USDA Undersecretary Richard Raymond breaks it down in trade publication Feedstuffs.
  • Romaine lettuce is still a food safety concern. The Wall Street Journal’s Annie Gasparro examined this with the Centers for Disease Control data.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Not Grande

On the heels of a reported nationwide french fry shortage, Food & Wine covered a global coffee shortage but reassured readers that despite estimates of a deficit, “if the cost of raw beans did go up to rebalance supply and demand, those fluctuations would likely have no impact on the retail market.”

Diving into the Best of 2019

Food Dive released its annual “Dive Awards.” This year’s awards named Chobani “Company of the Year,” for accelerated innovation into the plant-based market. Coca Cola‘s James Quincey was named “Executive of the Year,” and plant-based protein company Beyond Meat was named “Disruptor of the Year,” thanks in-part to its IPO in May.

Sweetening the Deal

On December 11, NPR spoke with beet farmers, bakers and candy-makers who want import restrictions loosened after bad weather hurt the U.S. beet harvest. Beets make up about half of America’s sugar supply, and this year, the USDA reported production was down 10%. Author Dan Charles expects “this year, the government will have to open the spigot and let more foreign sugar into the United States,” with imports from Mexico, Brazil and Thailand expected to total over 3.86 million tons, more than we’ve imported since 1981.

Waste Not

To coincide with #COP25, the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, The New York Times covered three main strategies cities are using to reduce food waste on a municipal level: targeting waste, incorporating businesses into plans and redistributing the surplus.

Best Kept Secret

New York magazine tipped readers off to one of the best kept secrets in food tourism: local grocery stores. Author Richard Morgan recalls the thrill of learning a new city through its culinary staples, and likens “being an adult in a foreign grocery store the grown-up version of being a kid in a candy store.”

QSR Swag

Quick-service restaurant brands are taking advantage of the holiday retail shopping season with new merchandise offerings. McDonald’s launched “Golden Arches Unlimited,” an online apparel and accessories store. Taco Bell debuted crunchwrap-scented holiday wrapping paper, available on Amazon and in Taco Bell Canada stores. KFC announced the return of its “best-smelling and selling” fried-chicken scented firelogs, while Popeye’s capitalized on its popular chicken sandwich with an “ugly sweater.”