Producer groups begin to take sides on T.P.P.

by Jay Sjerven
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Representatives of six key producer organizations — the American Soybean Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the U.S. Grains Council, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers — gathered in Kansas City on Nov. 11 to voice their support for congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, whose text was released Nov. 5, one month after the agreement was reached and in accordance to the requirements of the Trade Promotion Authority Act. At the same time, several other grower associations continued to pore over details of the 800-page agreement and said they’d announce their approval or disapproval of the pact at a later time, and one national farm organization announced its opposition to the trade treaty.

Leading up to the meeting in Kansas City, each of the above organizations declared its support for the T.P.P.

Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C., and president of the National Pork Producers Council, said his organization was unequivocal in its support for the T.P.P. deal and called on Congress to expeditiously pass the agreement.

Brett Blankenship, president, National Association of Wheat Growers; Alan Tiemann, chairman, U.S. Grains Council; Bob McCan, immediate past president, National Cattlemen's Beef Association; Chip Bowling, president, National Corn Growers Association; John Weber, president-elect, National Pork Producers Council; Wade Cowan, president, American Soybean Association; and Phil Karsting, administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
From the left: Brett Blankenship, president, National Association of Wheat Growers; Alan Tiemann, chairman, U.S. Grains Council; Bob McCan, immediate past president, National Cattlemen's Beef Association; Chip Bowling, president, National Corn Growers Association; John Weber, president-elect, National Pork Producers Council; Wade Cowan, president, American Soybean Association; and Phil Karsting, administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Past U.S. free trade agreements (F.T.A.s) have demonstrated the importance to our industry of opening international markets,” Mr. Prestage said. “T.P.P. will provide benefits to our producers that dramatically exceed those of prior trade agreements. I assure you that pork producers across this great nation will do whatever it takes to get T.P.P. passed by Congress and implemented.”

Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and a beef producer from Chugwater, Wyo., asserted the agreement was a major victory for the cattle industry.

“While the agreement is not perfect, it is a vast improvement over the current tariff rates, and the greatest market access that has ever been negotiated to Japan,” he said. “Clearly, working collaboratively, we were able to achieve more than we could have alone. The T.P.P. will immediately reduce the tariff to Japan, our largest market for U.S. beef, from 38.5% to 27.5%. And tariffs will continue to decrease, in some cases be eliminated, over the next 15 years.”

Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, and president of the American Soybean Association, said, “The T.P.P. is a good deal for soybean farmers and our livestock customers. We back it, and we will push Congress to do the same. We know that this will further expand our access to valuable markets in Asia and Latin America, but specifically, there are several key sections of the agreement that will move our trade significantly forward. The sanitary and phytosanitary provisions contained in the T.P.P. will help eliminate many of the non-scientific barriers to market entry that hang us up in particular markets, and the biotechnology provisions in the agreement will help to ensure that from export partner to export partner, science is the common framework on which our soybean technology is regulated.”

Brett Blankenship, a wheat grower from Washtucna, Wash., and president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said, “T.P.P. makes great strides in expanding trade opportunities for wheat in the Pacific Rim. This agreement lays the foundation for future trade agreements.”

The U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association in a joint statement pledged their support for the T.P.P.

“We are pleased that the United States is on the path toward approval of the T.P.P. agreement,” said Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Newburg, Md. “This
agreement will give America’s farmers and ranchers greater access to the Asia-Pacific region, bringing more American grains, meat and dairy to the rest of the world. That’s why N.C.G.A. members will be going to Capitol Hill and asking Congress to vote in favor of the T.P.P. agreement.”

Alan Tiemann, chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, said, “The T.P.P. will have significant benefits for exports of corn in all forms. Over the coming decades, this will help our members expand their overseas sales and grow their businesses.”

Meanwhile, Dave Salmonsen, senior director, congressional relations, American Farm Bureau Federation, told Food Business News the association’s staff was studying the agreement and hoped to provide a report to the A.F.B.F.’s board of directors in mid-December. Mr. Salmonsen said the Farm Bureau, because of its broad base among producers, must look into all aspects of the agreement and consider its effects on agriculture as a whole and not just on one or two commodities. He did remark he was pleased to see the agreement’s emphasis on science-based food safety standards and an overall improvement in dispute resolution mechanisms, which were particularly important in the trade of perishable commodities.

A contrary note was sounded by the National Farmers Union. Roger Johnson, N.F.U. president, said the agreement was as bad for ranchers and farmers “as we had feared.” Mr. Johnson asserted, “Given that this deal has been granted fast track authority, there is no alternative other than to vote this down.”

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