WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2016 - Many U.S. farm organizations are gearing up for an effort to convince members of Congress that they should approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this year – preferably sooner (before the November elections) than later.

“TPP promises to open up markets around the Pacific Rim. These are some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and America's farmers and ranchers are ready to expand business there," American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall said in a recent release. "We're ready to work with Congress to move this agreement forward for the overall good of U.S. agriculture." Similar messages of support were sent by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association last week, and this week, by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

But if TPP supporters are to be successful, a new poll conducted by Aimpoint Agriculture on behalf of Agri-Pulse indicates a need to also do a lot of convincing back home with farmers and ranchers as part of the process.

In the nationwide poll, farmers were asked, “Are you familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership?” and 74 percent said “no.” Those who said they were familiar with TPP were asked if they would support congressional passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this subgroup, only 33 percent said “yes” while almost 36 percent said “no” and 31 percent didn’t know.

Dave Salmonsen, AFBF’s trade policy expert, says he’s not surprised there is an “information gap that everyone will be working to fill. Trade agreements are complicated and take a while to understand.” He expects education and outreach to ramp up in the coming weeks and months, following the official TPP signing on Feb. 4 in New Zealand and release of the U.S. International Trade Commission report on the likely impact on the U.S. economy -- expected mid-May. After that time, President Obama is expected to submit the 12-nation trade pact to Congress for approval – with 90 legislative days allowed for an up or down vote.

For its part, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office has already launched an educational effort via its website, with the full text and other aspects of the deal explained.

But congressional passage of TPP will require a lot more effort and direct support from the farm community, noted lobbyist Mike Torrey during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in Washington this week.

“If it's going to happen (before the next administration), it's going to have to happen in the lame duck,” Torrey said, referring to the period after the election but before a new president and Congress are sworn in. “Unless the supply chain supports this agreement, it's going to be a challenge,” he said. “It's not just going to be a matter of supporting it and hoping it happens.”


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