With a NAFTA agreement that excludes Canada looming, top agriculture officials from North Dakota and Manitoba say they are confident a new agreement can be reached.
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler met with North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring on Tuesday in Grand Forks. While U.S.-Canada relations are uncertain, both said they are optimistic.
"We know that cooler heads will prevail and we will have an agreement soon," Eichler said. "We feel very optimistic that we're going to have a deal. I don't see a deal not coming forward, it's not an option."
Eichler said he and Goehring are "encouraging" their respective federal governments to reach an agreement sooner rather than later.
Goehring stressed having an agreement that will be fair to both countries and "modernized to how agriculture has changed."
"It's about being patient," Eichler said. "It has to be fair to both countries, and we respect that."
Goehring emphasized the importance of meeting with North Dakota's biggest trade partner.
"This is a symbiotic relationship, I'm hopeful we can resolve some of the issues."
Goehring, a Republican, is seeking re-election, running against Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere.
Eichler and Goehring called this meeting a precursor to the October Tri-National Agriculture Accord in Mexico.
"We've always used the Tri-National Accord as the place to have those conversations and look at things that may be disruptive," Goehring said.
The United States, Canada and Mexico are generally able to find a pathway forward at the Tri-National Accord and make recommendations to the federal government, Goehring said.
Other issues the two discussed included pests and pathogens, educating the public about agriculture and ways to further collaborate and share resources in the future.
On Monday Eichler met with Indiana's Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch in Winnipeg to have a similar discussion about collaboration.