WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2016 - There’s no sign that Capitol Hill is in any hurry to give the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) its stamp of approval, so producer groups are taking it upon themselves to push for speedy ratification of the agreement.
On Tuesday, the American Farm Bureau Federation published a report detailing its estimates of the agreement’s agricultural benefits. The big money statistic from the report was a projected $4.4 billion annual increase in net farm income that the report says is “over levels expected if Congress fails to ratify TPP.”
On a call with reporters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and AFBF President Zippy Duvall both agreed that prompt congressional approval of TPP is necessary. As Duvall put it, America “needs to be the leader” on trade to get the best outcome for its producers.
“Every day that does by, we fall further and further behind” and the benefits “get smaller and smaller,” Duvall said. “We’re coming to the dance late, so we need to catch up. We need to get this done.”
Also on Tuesday, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent a letter to Congress urging support of the agreement – and fast. In the letter, NCBA President Tracy Brunner told lawmakers that “now is the time to lead.” While the agreement might not be perfect, “it is a vast improvement over the status quo,” he said.
Duvall said that while the agreement might not be headed for immediate consideration, AFBF can’t let that decrease the intensity of their push for approval.
“It may end up being (considered in the lame duck), but we need to push it like we’re going to try to get it done tomorrow, because it needs to happen,” Duvall said. This week, 750 Farm Bureau members from across the country are in Washington for the group’s annual fly-in, likely pushing for TPP and a GMO labeling bill that will be considered in the Senate Ag Committee on Thursday.
“There will be continued requests and messaging to Congress about the need to get this done and get this done quickly,” Vilsack noted, adding that he hopes leadership in both chambers “would understand the delay is costly.”
Some other key figures from the Farm Bureau report:
• Domestic beef production would jump by 324 million pounds annually as a result of TPP, and increased exports would put upward pressure on prices, resulting in a $1.14 billion boost in cash receipts.
• Domestic pork product would jump by 794 million pounds a year, directly attributable to TPP implementation. Domestic demand for pork is expected to drop by 346 million pounds due to higher prices but exports are expected to climb by 1.1 billion pounds, mostly on increased sales to Japan and Vietnam. Cash receipts would increase by $1.1 billion.
• Corn would actually experience a dip in exports of about 45.3 million bushels due to smaller livestock herds in countries including Japan. But the growth in the U.S. livestock herd would lead to increased domestic demand and a 7.1 million-bushel boost in production, adding $680 million to cash receipts.
• Japanese demand for soybeans is expected to decrease as a result of the agreement, but demand from other countries is expected to offset that drop and still lead to a $530 million increase in the value of the soybean crop.
• In total, livestock receipts after implementation are expected to be $5.8 billion higher. Crops, including fruits and vegetables, are also projected higher to the tune of $2.7 billion.
The National Farmers Union, which opposes TPP, was not impressed with the report. In a statement, NFU President Roger Johnson said that “to “broadly categorize agriculture as benefiting from this agreement is not giving due diligence to the serious concerns that are not addressed by TPP.” Johnson said that in its current form, TPP “stands to hurt our rural economies by pitting American jobs against foreign labor.” He went on to say that “any consumer that cares about where their food comes from should be concerned with the TPP.”
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