Americans are expected to go to the polls in record numbers today, but tomorrow every farmer in the country should be on the phone asking his congressman to help pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation said.
Zippy Duvall, AFBF president and a farmer from Georgia, says once the election is behind them the nation's farmers need to turn their full attention to winning passage of the trade agreement in the lame-duck session of Congress that is expected to begin shortly.
“There are a lot of things we can do, but there’s one thing that’s on the front-burner right now,” said Duvall, speaking at the annual meeting of the Southern Crop Production Association in Amelia Island, Fla., on the day before the elections. (SCPA represents chemical manufacturers and distributors in the Southeast.)
“That is that anybody that has anything to do with agriculture – whether they’re farming or whether they’re serving us with crop protection products – needs to be on the phone to their congressman today or especially Wednesday morning saying you need to make sure your leadership puts TPP on the agenda.”
In his speech, Duvall called the current economic situation in agriculture a “potential disaster” because of the severe declines in commodity prices such as the drop in corn from $8 per bushel down to $2.90 a bushel.
$2.38 to $1.38 to $.90
“I’m a beef farmer,” he said. “Two years ago I sold 700-pound calves for $2.38 a pound. In June of this year, I was going to sell them for $1.38, and now they’re 90 cents per pound. It doesn’t make any difference what commodity you pick; they’re facing a disaster.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 countries located around the Pacific Rim, is one of the most important steps Congress can take to begin helping farmers avert that disaster.
“We need to have a debate about TPP,” says Duvall. “We need to find out what’s best for America, and we need to pass TPP.”
The economists at the American Farm Bureau Federation estimate $4.4 billion will come back to the American farmer as a result of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, said Duvall, who also raises chickens and hay on his farm in Greene County, Ga.
“Put that in farmers’ hands, they’ll be able to stay on the farm and participate with you and your products. That is a crucial issue we need to face as soon as this election is over, and anybody who has an interest in agriculture needs to be on the phone, not saying if, but we need you to make sure your leadership puts this on the agenda, and let’s have this conversation.”
'One thing could help'
The agreement will give U.S. farmers access to a part of the world where there is a growing, middle class population, according to Duvall.
“It is important for us to grow our ability to sell outside our borders,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of the world’s purchasing power is outside our borders so we need to have the opportunity to do that.”
If the treaty has problems, Duvall said, they largely do not involve agriculture. “I would say the people you serve are depending on us to move forward, and that’s one thing that could help our farmers today.
“There are some commodities where the results aren’t as good from TPP, but all of agriculture has come out in support of the agreement, knowing it could generate some spinoff business for the rest of us,” he said in an interview following his speech. “Commodities, organizations that support agriculture, chambers of commerce – there’s a lot of support out there. We have a list of more than 270 groups that support the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
For more on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, visit https://ustr.gov/tpp/.