Farm Groups are beginning a final push for action on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement in the lame-duck session of Congress, but the uphill climb is getting steeper. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week he wouldn’t be holding a vote on TPP until Donald Trump takes office. Texas Republican Kevin Brady, House Ways and Means Chair, said Trump would be the one to determine the way forward. The Hagstrom Report says a spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman called it, “Republicans playing politics with TPP. It’s all about Donald Trump and nothing else.” New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, told the Washington Post that TPP is “dead in the water.” The National Association of Wheat Growers is urging Congress to take action, noting that wheat growers rely on export markets to ease low prices. Since February, the average cash price for wheat has dropped from an unprofitable $4.90 a bushel to a disastrous $3.50 per bushel.
From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.
From: The National Association of Wheat Growers
Wheat Growers Urge Congressional Leadership to Allow a Vote on TPP
Nine months ago, following the signing of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) called on Congress to rapidly consider and ratify the agreement. After a long and disappointing wait, a real window of opportunity for a vote on TPP will soon open when the legislative session resumes next week. We call on Congress again, to urge its leadership to allow an implementing bill to be considered as soon as possible.
Wheat is the most export-dependent grain commodity grown by U.S. farmers. Since February, many national and state wheat grower association members visited congressional offices to stress their support for the agreement. Since February, however, those same growers have seen their average cash prices drop from an already unprofitable $4.90 per bushel to a devastating $3.50 per bushel.
“Wheat growers depend on export markets like those in South Asia and Latin America that are growing, but highly competitive,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner, a wheat farmer from Outlook, Mont. “When implemented, TPP will help ease the pain of low prices by expanding demand for our wheat in those markets. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to lose even more momentum in these markets from Congress letting this opportunity to ratify TPP slip by.”
Asia is a growing region and TPP has the potential to increase economic opportunity and wheat demand even in countries where we already have duty free access. That is critically important because competitors like Australia are moving ahead with bilateral agreements that eliminate tariffs on wheat imports with countries like Vietnam. And U.S. wheat exports face similar tariff disadvantages in several other countries that want to join TPP but cannot apply for membership until after Congress and governments of the other countries ratify the agreement.
“The high standards in the TPP agreement should help us be more competitive and hopefully lead to even more opportunity for our wheat as new countries join TPP in the future,” said USW Chairman Jason Scott, a wheat farmer from Easton, Md. “The Obama Administration has taken strong actions that show trade agreements, when enforced, work for agriculture. At such a critical time, America’s farmers and ranchers need this agreement as a platform for expanding global markets for years to come.”