Apr 7, 2007
Opposition to CAFTA Continues to Grow

Despite support by President Bush’s administration, opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) continues to swell within America’s agriculture community and among America’s farmers. I commend the increasing number of Congressional leaders and state Agriculture Commissioners who have come out against the controversial trade agreement.

Last week (late March) Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, joined the growing chorus of CAFTA opposition.

“I am very concerned about the Central America Free Trade Agreement,” Chambliss said. “As it currently stands I will vote against the agreement when it comes to the Floor.”

Sen. Chambliss joins many champions of American agriculture in Congress on both sides of the aisle in opposing CAFTA, including House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.; and Rep. Dennis Rehberg R-Mont., among others. Agriculture commissioners from several key agriculture states have also spoken out against CAFTA, including Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota. Last month the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) adopted a resolution to reject CAFTA.

These leaders join the National Farmers Union in opposition to CAFTA for several reasons. For one, estimates of sizable trade gains for U.S. farmers and ranchers are overly optimistic. CAFTA countries have a combined population of approximately 31 million people with limited incomes with which to purchase agricultural products. In fact, many key U.S. commodities already have virtually open access and control of the Central American market – according to the most recent data, the United States supplied 94 percent of all grains imports into the six CAFTA countries. Even government economic analysis says that under CAFTA the U.S. deficit with the region will grow by another billion dollars.

Furthermore, CAFTA resembles failed U.S. trade policies of the past. The facts are that the U.S. continues to come up on the short-end in trade agreements. The results usually end-up benefiting other countries more than US farmers and ranchers. There is no better proof that our trade policy isn’t working than the fact for the first time in nearly a half-century the US will import more agriculture products than we export.

With results like these, it does not make sense to continue down the path free trade. Instead, we need FAIR trade that truly seeks to level the playing field by including all factors of trade including currency manipulation, labor and environmental standards. We can do better. We must do better, or we will ultimate lose our ability to continue to provide an abundance of safe, healthy food for all Americans.

Frederickson is the president of National Farmers Union.

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