Fast Track suffers set-back in the House
Corporate agribusiness and their allies in Congress and the Bush Administration are licking their wounds this week, acknowledging they do not have enough votes to give President Bush fast track trade authority. President Bush and the Republican House leaders had been pushing hard to win approval of the bill before Congress adjourns for the August recess this weekend. Family farm groups are declaring victory, arguing that fast track would only accelerate the loss of family farms by expanding corporate control over both domestic and global markets.
Last week, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), along with sixty state, regional and national farm organizations, delivered a letter to every member of the House of Representatives strongly opposing legislation that would grant Fast Track trade authority to President Bush to negotiate a trade agreements -- such as the proposed Free Trade Areas of the America -- that would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the rest of the hemisphere.
The NAFTA trade model has failed Missouri family farmers and ranchers, and has helped fuel the economic devastation of rural America, said Bill Christison, a farmer from Chillicothe, Missouri, who chairs both MRCC and the National Family Farm Coalition. Commodity dumping, price manipulation, and devastatingly low commodity prices for farmers are just some of the casualties of the failed agricultural and trade polices embodied by NAFTA, the WTO and the Freedom to Farm Act. Congress and the President must focus on addressing the many failures of NAFTA and current farm policies instead of expanding this economic, social and environmental disaster to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
Farmers know that were not all one big happy industry. NAFTA might be a great thing for Cargill or ConAgra, but farmers and consumers are paying the price to underwrite their huge profits, said Christison.
Fair trade principles
MRCC and the other groups also put forth fair trade principles for agriculture that, if followed, would begin to reverse the severe agricultural depression inflicted on rural America for the past decade by failed agricultural and trade policies:
The impact of NAFTA and other free trade agreements is reflected in the ongoing farm crisis gripping the nation, and the billions of taxpayer dollars appropriated each year to alleviate the economic devastation caused by the failures of our export-driven farm policy, said Roger Allison, a grain and livestock farmer from Armstrong, Missouri, and the Executive Director of MRCC. We need a farm bill that pays farmers a fair price, creates a farmer-owned reserve, and curtails corporate concentration. Thats a plan that family farmers and rural communities can get excited about.
Allison believes that NAFTAs record as a model for farm and trade policies speaks for itself. In Missouri, weve got the second largest number of farm operations and second highest number of cattle operations in the nation. Since NAFTA, weve lost millions of dollars by becoming a net importer of beef and have seen record low commodity prices in nearly every agricultural sector. Thats just devastating to Missouris family farmers.
The Missouri Rural Crisis Center is a statewide farm and rural organization with more than 5,500 member families. The following table details NAFTAs impact on agricultural products that Missouri farmers depend on for their livelihoods.
NAFTAs Record for U.S. Farm Products, 1994-2000
|Published in In Motion Magazine, August 7, 2001
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