World Economy

US Farm Groups Failing in Free-Trade Fight

US Farm Groups Failing in Free-Trade FightUS Farm Groups Failing in Free-Trade Fight

The Senate vote last week on proceeding with debate on Trade Promotion Authority demonstrated the limited power that agriculture groups now have with Democrats in Congress.

Most of the agricultural establishment — the American Farm Bureau Federation and the major meat, commodity, and agribusiness groups — favor free trade agreements because they would reduce tariffs and other barriers to US farm and food products, NewsNow reported.

The National Farmers Union is the only major farm group in opposition. The Democratic-leaning NFU acknowledges that trade is good for the family farmers it represents but says it will lead to an increase in the trade deficit and not deal with currency manipulation. The American Sugar Alliance, which represents cane and beet growers and has experienced more imports under previous free trade agreements, is neutral.

But when the Senate voted 65 to 33 to move to debate, only 13 Democrats joined all the Republicans to vote for it and only two Democrats serving on the Senate Agriculture Committee and one Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee voted "yes." Seven Democrats on the Agriculture Committee voted against the measure. One of the Democrats told the North American Agricultural Journalists on April 28 that Japan makes it hard to sell American cars there and that currency manipulation by Asian countries has cost five million American jobs.

"We need to make sure we are exporting our products, not our jobs," he said.

With the Senate likely to garner a majority on TPA this week, the action moves to the House, where prominent aggies also question TPA and trade agreements. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson says that his decision on whether to vote for TPA will depend on whether US trade negotiators achieve a deal with Canada to reform its dairy supply management system and provide market access for US dairy producers.