Report: Ag among top industries lobbying on TPP

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



A report from the watchdog group Sunlight Foundation shows that agriculture - especially the dairy and sugar sectors - is among the top industries lobbying on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP free trade pact is being negotiated between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Lets Talk Food

The Sunlight Foundation, which combed through lobbying reports from 2009 through mid-2013, found milk and dairy producers mentioned TPP as an issue of interest in their reports nearly 100 times. Sugar cane and sugar beet firms mentioned the trade negotiation just over 50 times. Food manufacturers, meanwhile, mentioned TPP just under 50 times.

The Foundation also broke down its data by organization and found that Dairy Farmers of America was the agriculture organization showing the most interest in the TPP.  With 29 TPP mentions, DFA came in fourth in the overall number of mentions. With 22 mentions, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) was not too far behind.

The Sunlight Foundation did not attempt to measure how much money each industry or organization spent on lobbying for TPP. Instead, it used legally-mandated lobbying reports - filed quarterly by the lobbyists representing each company or group - to determine whether TPP had been among each industry or organization's priorities. The reports from the first quarter of 2013, for example, show that the American Farm Bureau Federation lobbied on the farm bill, antimicrobial transparency in animals and TPP, among other issues.  

According to the Congressional Research Service, two-way U.S. agricultural trade with TPP countries totaled $108 billion in 2012, 44 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports and imports. Total U.S. merchandise trade with TPP countries totaled $1.5 trillion for that year. A more liberalized Trans-pacific trade regime would mean increased market access for U.S. agriculture products.

American agriculture also hopes a successful TPP will compel partner countries to reform their sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

“[A]ny comprehensive agreement also must include effective disciplines for applying [SPS] measures that are science-based and enforceable, and preventing restrictions on the use of common food products,” National Milk Producers and the U.S. Dairy Export Council wrote in a joint release last month.

Agriculture's TPP lobbying has been dwarfed, however, by the pharmaceutical industry, which began lobbying for TPP years before those outside of that industry began to take notice. Pharmaceutical manufacturers mentioned TPP in their lobbying reports 250 times between 2009 and mid-2013. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry trade organization, and Pfizer Inc. were the most active organizations lobbying for TPP, with 44 and 42 mentions each.

That attentiveness paid off, the Sunlight Foundation says. Current TPP language is “quite friendly to drug manufacturers, strengthening patent exclusivity and providing protections against bulk government purchasing (should it hurt profits),” writes Lee Drutman, a senior fellow with the organization.

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