Farm Groups to U. S. Senate:
The Missouri Rural Crisis Center, along with ninety-five state, regional and national farm organizations, delivered a letter today to every member of the Senate strongly opposing legislation that would grant Fast Track trade authority to President Bush. The House of Representatives passed their version of fast track in 2001 by only one vote. President Bush is hoping to obtain fast track in order to negotiate new free trade agreements, including an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere--the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
The NAFTA trade model has failed family farmers and ranchers, and has devastated rural America, said Bill Christison, a farmer from Chillicothe, Missouri, and President of both MRCC and the National Family Farm Coalition. Commodity dumping, price manipulation, and devastatingly low prices for farmers are just some of the casualties of the failed agricultural and trade polices embodied by NAFTA, the WTO and farm programs that drive market prices down the tubes. Congress and the President must focus on addressing the many failures of NAFTA instead of expanding this economic, social and environmental disaster to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
Fast track puts all the decision-making power for trade deals into the hands of the President. That violates the Constitution and circumvents the democratic process, said Christison.
Farmers are pointing to key facts to illustrate the failures of NAFTA for U. S. food producers. Since NAFTA was put into place in 1994:
Howard County farmer and MRCC Program Director, Rhonda Perry, believes that NAFTAs record speaks for itself. "Corporate agribusiness and their political allies have been spending millions to tout the benefits of 'free trade' for a long time now, and they've sure got their money's worth. They're making record profits while farmers are going broke. The Senate needs to stand up to the Bush Administration and reject fast track before family farmers are traded away."
MRCC and the other groups are also proposing 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:
For more information, contact the Missouri Rural Crisis Center at 573-449-1336 or at email@example.com, or the National Family Farm Coalition at 202-543-5676.
May 14, 2002
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we urge your opposition to the granting of fast track trade authority.
Both President Bush and his trade representative, Robert Zoellick, have said they need to secure Fast Track authority from you to expand NAFTA.
NAFTA was disastrous for farmers, workers and consumers in the United States. The proposed extension of NAFTA to all of South America, the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA), will have the same effects as NAFTA but on a more devastating scale. NAFTA has not created more prosperity in the U.S.; instead, it has only accelerated the loss of family farms and jobs and held down wages for working people in the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada. NAFTA promised farmers that they would be able to export their way to economic success, and promised lower food prices to consumers. Neither benefit has materialized; however, agribusiness corporations have seen their profits increase to record levels. Moreover, since 1996 (when the Freedom to Farm bill was passed), the overall agricultural surplus has declined from $29.5 billion per year to $12.6 billion in 2000, a 77% decrease.
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 to help alleviate the economic devastation caused by the failures of our export-driven farm policy. These impacts are compounded by increasing concentration in the agricultural sector.
Fast track is also extremely undemocratic. Citizens should have a say in what trade policy we have in this country. We elected you to make trade policy. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution invests Congress with exclusive authority to regulate Commerce with foreign nations. Please do not abdicate this important responsibility.
Fast track will be a detriment to family farmers, rural communities, and working people because it fails to meet the principles of a fair trade policy that promotes global food security while sustaining family farms and competitive markets. An important way for you as a member of the U.S. Senate to ensure the survival of family farmers, rural communities, and working people, is to oppose fast track.
|Published in In Motion Magazine, May 19, 2002.
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