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Late Friday evening, the full Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority legislation (S. 995) by a bi-partisan vote of 63 to 37. Reaction by agriculture interests was swift and positive. “This vote by the Senate is a clear indication of the support that exists nationwide for future free trade agreements,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Chugwater, Wyoming cattleman, Philip Ellis. AFBF President Bob Stallman said, in a statement, “The Senate’s bipartisan passage of trade promotion authority legislation today brings us a step closer to completing ambitious trade negotiations around the world.” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Villsack stated, “Standing still is not an option. Our farmers and ranchers face exorbitant tariffs and other barriers in important foreign markets; and, if we do not act to maintain and gain market share in these places, our competitors will. U.S. agriculture’s interests are best served by ensuring America is at the table with strong negotiating authority.”

The focus now moves to the House where the issue is likely to face strong opposition. “Today’s vote has changed that. We’re a step away from equipping our negotiators with the tools they need to fully represent the interests of American soybean farmers. We thank Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden for their persistence on this bill, and we look forward to Chairman Ryan’s efforts in the House. It is imperative that House members recognize the potential of trade agreements to contribute to the success of the American economy in general, and our farm economy in particular. We call on all members of the House to support TPA when it comes to the floor in June, and we look forward to getting back to business overseas,” said ASA President and Texas farmer Wade Cowan. Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and president of NCGA, said corn farmers should contact their Representatives to voice support for the TPA legislation, “America’s farmers and ranchers are counting on the House of Representatives to step up and pass this important legislation as soon as possible.”

The White House has been pressuring Democrats who, in general, oppose the legislation. The President has made negotiating trade deals, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, a major goal of his administration. “Trade promotion authority is crucial to concluding trade agreements that will open foreign markets to more U.S. dairy products,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “In the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in particular, having TPA in place is essential to increase pressure on Japan and Canada to extend their best offers.”  Joel G. Newman, President and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association, added, “TPP provides incredible growth possibilities through increased exports of animal feed and feed ingredients, as well as increased overseas sales of U.S. livestock, poultry and dairy products. Without enactment of TPA, U.S. negotiators will continue to lack the ability and leverage needed to negotiate successful free trade agreements.”