California Farm and Rural Groups Join 160+ Organizations to Ask Congress to Reject TPP, Stand Up for Independent Farmers and Ranchers
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation’s capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations, including 9 from California, sent a letter to Capitol Hill yesterday, April 27, 2016–urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact.
“The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition. TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers who are facing declining farm prices that are projected to stay low for years,” the organizations wrote. California groups including Belcampo, California Dairy Campaign, California Farmers Union, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Ecological Farming Association, Food & Water Watch, Rooted in Community, Rooted in Community Youth Food Justice Leadership Network and Roots of Change signed the letter.
The White House has promoted the TPP as an export-boon for farmers to generate support for the agreement, but past trade agreements have not always delivered on export promises, the letter noted. For example, the United States’ total combined exports of corn, soybeans and wheat have remained steady at about 100 million metric tons for the last 30 years despite a raft of free trade agreements since the mid-1990s.
“Trade deals do not just add new export markets – the flow of trade goes both ways – and the U.S. has committed to allowing significantly greater market access to imports under the TPP,” the groups explained. Especially “alarming” to the organizations is the agreement’s complete lack of enforceable provisions against currency manipulation, a substantial cause of America’s debilitating $531 billion trade imbalance.
California Dairy Campaign President Joe Augusto stated, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will mean that imports from New Zealand and other countries will greatly increase, especially imports of concentrated dairy products. As more and more dairies in California go out of business, passage of the TPP will lead to a further decline in milk production across our state.”
The TPP poses particular risks for dairy farmers and cattle producers. The TPP dairy export opportunities were more modest than promised, but the TPP will likely increase imports of milk and whey protein concentrates from global dairy powerhouse New Zealand during a period of declining farmgate milk prices in the U.S. The United States imported nearly 2.3 billion pounds of beef from TPP partners but only exported about 1.2 billion pounds in 2015. The TPP will also increase beef and cattle imports while domestic cattle prices are plummeting.
California Farmers Union President Joaquin Contente stated, “Farmers in California are some of the most highly regulated in the world, and under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they will have to compete against a flood of imports that do not meet the same high standards that farmers here are required to follow. Any potential export gains can be erased at any point when our competitors devalue their currency because currency manipulation is not addressed in the TPP. The TPP also does not crack down on the value-added taxes (VAT) that our competitors can impose which make our exports uncompetitive in other markets.”
The TPP also covers important agricultural policy areas such as investment, procurement, labeling, food safety, animal health and crop disease. The stringent rules and dispute system under the TPP make it easier to successfully challenge and overturn domestic laws, as happened last year to country of origin meat labels.
“The TPP will bring a wave of fruit and vegetable imports that will inundate farmers, consumers and inspectors,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. “The TPP benefits the biggest agribusiness and food companies at the expense of California communities that are trying to strengthen and rebuild local, sustainable food systems.”
The letter and complete list of signers can be read here.