Trade Promotion Authority - Agriculture

Waco Press Conference.

I am here today representing the Texas Farmers Union to convey our strong opposition to the Fast Track legislation proposed by Representative Thomas.

We were told in the 1980's and 1990's to "Just Trust Us," and agriculture producers will profit from the free trade expansion resulting from trade agreements. We are being asked again to "Just Trust Us" in the Thomas legislation. However, it contains the same broad objectives and goals for agriculture that were the basis for negotiations in both the Uruguay Round and NAFTA.

Let's Look at the Results:

*Over the past 20 years agriculture exports increased 67 percent while competitive imports increased 240 percent.

*Since 1996, agriculture exports declined 10 percent, as competitive imports expanded by 29 percent.

*Farm income reductions have resulted in the most expensive domestic farm program in history.

Fast Track proponents often state that agriculture exports represent the production on nearly 25 percent of our farms and ranches. This misleading information fails to account for the fact that over 15 percent of the production on our farms and ranches is lost to competitive imports.

The Thomas bill fails to ensure that the biggest issues facing agriculture trade are included in a final agreement:

*Failure to address currency valuations and exchange rates that make our export products more expensive inhibiting our access to international markets while increasing the price competition by imported agricultural products in our domestic market.

*Failure to adequately address and provide enforcement of labor and environmental stands ensuring our ability to compete will continue to decline in the future relative to other producers who face lower environmental standards and have access to cheap labor.

The tired old rhetoric of 'Just Trust Us' does not work anymore. Trust must be earned. We can not afford more empty promises. We need ironclad commitments that the challenges America's farmers' face in international markets will be addressed through fair and enforceable rules that recognize the importance and unique character of production agriculture.

Texas Farmers Union, P.O. Box 738, Sweetwater, Tx 79556