The controversial new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been a tough sell for the Obama Administration. The top four Presidential candidates oppose its passage and support in Congress is waning. The road to TPP approval got a little tougher when 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations sent a letter to Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to reject the deal.
“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.
At a time when the farm economy is struggling, the 12-nation TPP is being sold as a boost to farmers. But many farm groups are not buying it. “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.
An IATP paper earlier this month raised concerns about the impact of increased imports of milk and whey protein concentrates from the largest dairy exporting company in the world, based in the TPP country New Zealand. U.S. dairy farmers are already suffering under a climate of extremely low prices.
“Low prices are already forcing local dairy processors to pour raw milk from U.S. dairy farms down the drain,” says Steve Suppan, senior policy analyst at IATP. “Under the TPP, dairy processors can import even more cheap, low-nutrient dairy products at the expense of U.S. farmers. The TPP serves the interests of a handful of the largest dairy product manufacturers and exporters, while setting the terms to force most U.S. dairy farmers out of business and further impoverish rural communities.”
Last week, IATP joined faith, development and sustainable agriculture organizations in urging Congress to reject the TPP because of the impact the deal would have on developing country farmers. The TPP also covers important agricultural policy areas such as investment, procurement, labeling, food safety and patents for new technologies like genetically engineered crops. 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.