Farm, Faith and Rural Groups Oppose TPP to Congress

April 27, 2016
 

Attention: Ag/Trade Leg. Staff

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Representative:

The undersigned 161 farm, food, rural and faith groups urge you to reject the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

Independent family farmers and ranchers will see little benefit from the purported export gains from the TPP. At the same time, TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers that are facing declining farmgate prices that are projected to stay low for years. 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. The TPP is promoted as a boon to farmers because of the increased agricultural export opportunities.

The trade deals of the past two decades have been promoted as export-generating, but it is important to recognize that despite the reduction of foreign tariffs, the volume of U.S. exports has not increased as projected. 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.

More specifically, the TPP proponents have substantially oversold the agricultural market access and potential export gains. The TPP members that the U.S. does not already have existing free trade agreements with are mostly smaller economies like Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam where there is insufficient demand to generate significant export opportunities. Agricultural exports to the larger Japanese market will be hindered by long phase-ins of tariff reductions and offsetting policies like subsidies and tariff snapbacks for key products like pork and beef. Even these modest export benefits accrue more to the companies that process and market agricultural products than to the farmers that produce crops and livestock.

Individual farmers aren’t the ones exporting their goods to these new markets. Instead, grain traders, meatpackers, produce shippers and food processors sell these products overseas and reap the majority of the benefits from increased market access. The farmer’s share of any increased exports is similar to the tiny farmer’s share of the retail food dollar. Any export opportunities must be weighed against the more likely increase in low-priced agricultural imports that would compete against and displace U.S. farm products. 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

Agricultural imports have surged under previous trade deals that have been particularly damaging to the U.S. fresh and processed fruit and vegetable sector. Tomatoes from Mexico, berries from Chile, cut flowers from Colombia, lamb from Australia, garlic and canned produce from China have all undermined domestic producers and the livelihoods of the farmworkers and food processing plant workers. The increased agricultural import competition under the TPP will likely overshadow export benefits and will drive down the prices U.S. farmers receive for their crops and livestock

Larger import volumes depress domestic prices—this is especially true for low-priced and even artificially low-priced imported farm goods. For example, already the United States has more than a one billion-pound beef trade deficit with TPP partners and beef imports will likely increase significantly more than beef exports. Currently, domestic cattle prices are collapsing and the added influx of even more beef will make this bad situation even worse.

The TPP would also bring more dairy powder from New Zealand, processed fruits and vegetables from Vietnam and Malaysia as well as fresh produce from all the TPP partners. These additional imports also benefit the buyers of raw agricultural products. These transnational companies have the capacity to look all over the globe for agricultural products, pitting farmers worldwide against one another.

For example, the largest domestic beef and pork packing firms are not U.S.-based companies. The TPP gives these firms even more countries to shop for cheaper goods (often produced under considerably weaker environmental, farmworker and labor standards) and import them under lower tariffs to compete directly with U.S. farmers.

The TPP contains other provisions governing investment, government purchasing, food safety, animal health and crop disease and labeling that can further undermine domestic farm economies. Trade deals have been used to overturn U.S. country of origin meat labels, investment rules facilitate foreign corporate ownership of U.S. farmland, and the procurement provisions could be used to unravel domestic and local farm purchasing programs.

Finally, since the TPP lacks binding and enforceable provisions against currency manipulation, foreign countries would likely devalue their currencies to encourage even more agricultural exports to the United States. By failing to effectively deal with currency manipulation, TPP fails to address a substantial cause of a debilitating trade deficit that causes a 3 percent drag on our economy and caused the loss of millions of U.S. jobs. Many family farmers need off-farm income to supplement their farm earnings and ensure a decent living for their families. That off-farm income is harder to find as jobs are lost to trade deals like the TPP.

The TPP poses significant risks for American farmers and ranchers. The surge of agricultural imports from prior trade deals contributed to declining prices and the often precarious economic viability of independent farms. The modest agricultural export opportunities would largely be captured by the shippers, distributors, processors and traders and provide a very limited benefit to farmers and ranchers.

We urge you to stand up for American independent farm and ranch families and reject the TPP.

Signed:

Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alabama State Association of Cooperatives

Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network

Alaska Farmers Union

Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) (MT)

American Agriculture Movement

American Grassfed Association

Arkansas Farmers Union

Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County (OH) Farmers Union

Bandera Grassland (TX)

Belcampo (CA)

BioRegional Strategies

Bold Alliance (IA, LA, NE & OK)

Boots on the Ground, LLC

Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)

Buffalo Mountain Coop and Café (VT)

Bull Mountain Land Alliance (MT)

California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (NC)

The Carrot Project (MA)

CASA del Llano (TX)

Social Services Office-Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri/Diocese of Jefferson City

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Cattle Producers of Washington

Center for Family Farm Development Inc. (GA)

Central United Methodist Church of Detroit Social Justice Society

Church Women United in New York State

Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association

Colorado Women Involved in Farm Economics

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CA)

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Cottage House, Inc. (AL)

Council for Healthy Food Systems (TX)

Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)

Dakota Resource Council (ND)

Dakota Rural Action (SD)

East New York Farms!

Ecological Farming Association (CA)

Fair World Project (OR)

Family Farm Defenders (WI)

Farm Aid

Farm Alliance of Baltimore

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm Labor Organizing Committee

Farmworker Association of Florida

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund

Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc.

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food Democracy Now!

Food for Maine’s Future

Four Seasons Artisans and Farmers Market (CO)

Franklin Community Co-op (MA)

Friends of Family Farmers (OR)

Grand Forks County Citizens Coalition (ND)

Grassfed Livestock Alliance

Hawai’i Farmers Union United

Idaho Organization of Resource Councils

Illinois Farmers Union

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND)

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Indiana Farmers Union

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

International Texas Longhorn Association

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Iowa Farmers Union

Just Food (NY)

Kansas Farmers Union

Land Loss Prevention Project (NC)

Land Stewardship Project (MN)

Local Food RULES (ME)

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

Michigan Farmers Union

Michigan Land Trustees

Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (VT)

Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association

Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota National Farmers Organization

Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives

Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative

Monadnock Food Co-op (NH)

Montana Farmers Union

Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MD)

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Women Involved in Farm Economics

Nebraska Farmers Union

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics

Neighboring Food Co-op Association (New England)

Nevada Live Stock Association

New England Farmers Union (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (MA)

North Dakota Farmers Union

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – CT

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – MA

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NH

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NY

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – VT

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council (NOFA-IC)

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Northwest Farmers Union

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Ohio Farmers Union

Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project

Oregon Rural Action

Oregon Rural Action, Blue Mountain Chapter

Oregon Rural Action, Snake River Chapter

Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families

Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association

Organization for Competitive Markets

Our Family Farms Coalition

Pennsylvania Farmers Union

PLBA Housing Development Corp. (AL)

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

Progressive Agriculture Organization (PA)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Rainbow Natural Grocery (MS)

Ranch Foods Direct (CO)

Real Pickles Cooperative, Inc. (MA)

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rooted in Community

Rooted in Community Youth Food Justice Leadership Network (CA)

Roots of Change (CA)

Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA)

Rural Advancement Fund (SC)

Rural Coalition

Rural Vermont

Slow Food USA

Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

South Dakota Farmers Union

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Spokane County Cattlemen (WA)

Sustainable Food Center (TX)

Texas Farmers Union

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

Utah Farmers Union

Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (MA)

Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network

Western Colorado Congress

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)

Willimantic Food Coop (CT)

Wisconsin Farmers Union

Wyoming Women Involved in Farm Economics