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Agricultural News

Populist Groups Oppose Free Trade Deals Pending

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:31:42 CDT

Populist Groups Oppose Free Trade Deals Pending The National Family Farm Coalition and 56 allied organizations representing family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and advocates signed a letter to Congress condemning the pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. As the letter states, more FTAs will only accelerate the economic disasters in agriculture: industrial farms dependent on massive amounts of petroleum-based inputs, low-paying exploitative jobs in processing and packing plants, and increased consolidation throughout the agricultural supply chain.

Wisconsin farmer Joel Greeno, a participant in the August 16 White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa, noted, "The way to get the country's economy back on track is to strengthen rural communities, which means ensuring farmers a fair price, not exporting foods to people they may not want or that would destroy their own markets." The Economic Policy Institute's research revealed that 700,000 U.S. jobs have been lost or displaced since 1994 as a result of the trade deficit with Mexico. Additionally, EPI estimates that free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea alone will likely increase the U.S. trade deficit by $16.8 billion and eliminate or displace another 214,000 U.S. jobs. Such trade agreements are an economic disaster that will only deepen the current recession.

When Mexico devalued the peso by 50 percent after NAFTA's implementation, the projected benefits for thousands of Mexican producers were eliminated. NFFC president Ben Burkett added, "Many Korean, Colombian and Panamanian producers will lose their livelihoods and land, so we'll hurt our allies, as well."

Furthermore, the Tax Information Exchange Agreement between the U.S. and Panama may not be enough to curb Panama's position as one of the world's major tax havens. This FTA could deprive the U.S. government of much-needed revenue and saddle other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, with a disproportionate share of the cost-cutting burden.

The ability of local producers both here and abroad to feed their families and their communities will be compromised by these misguided trade agreements. Potential labor abuses, trade deficits and displaced jobs will further destabilize rural communities and the food system. NFFC vice-president Dena Hoff, summarized, "The seven principles of food sovereignty, including food as nutrition first and a commodity second, should be the basis of our agricultural system, not the unbridled NAFTA-style commerce that destroys our communities and environment as gargantuan transnational corporations profit."

Click here to see a copy of the letter sent to Congress regarding the FTA's.



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