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More Trade Will Help American Farmers and Ranchers Thrive

February 26, 2015

America’s farmers and ranchers will reap enormous benefits from expanding U.S. trade. Rural communities across the country rely heavily on the global economy for their livelihoods, but many of our agricultural exports are hitting trade barriers. That’s why passing trade promotion authority (TPA) is so important. It will help us reach high-standard trade agreements, which will tear down these barriers, open new markets for agricultural exports, and increase take-home pay for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

The bipartisan effort to pass TPA comes at a time when there’s a growing demand for U.S. agricultural products around the world. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have increased by more than 58 percent and hit record levels last year, with exports reaching nearly $152.5 billion.   

But we can’t stop there. The U.S.’s ongoing trade negotiations present new opportunities for our exporters to tap new markets in the Asia–Pacific region and Europe. Putting in place trade promotion authority would make sure America’s farmers get the best deal possible from these negotiations. That’s why so many American farmers and ranchers are rallying behind TPA.   

As a number of them recently wrote to Congress, “The people we represent—American farmers, ranchers, food and agriculture companies, retailers and their workers—are heavily dependent on trade for their livelihoods. Their ability to compete in global markets is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate impediments to international trade.”

And if we’re not expanding markets to sell American crops, dairy, and meat, we’re falling behind. All the time, other nations are working to put in place trade agreements. If we’re not a part of that effort, agricultural exports from other countries will be cheaper, ours will be more expensive, and American farms and ranches will suffer.

The truth is that we grow more agricultural products than we can sell here at home, and we should take advantage of this abundance. Just look at U.S. beef exports, which have been growing at a record pace in recent years. The future is even more promising when you consider “that 95% of consumers reside outside U.S. borders, and as consumer incomes grow, the tendency is to eat higher on the protein chain.”

But passage of TPA is not just good for rural communities; it will boost the entire U.S. economy. According to USTR, agricultural exports support nearly 1 million American jobs—on and off the farm.  

As House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) recently wrote in support of TPA, good trade policy is “equal parts good for American farmers and ranchers, good for the overall U.S. economy and good for consumers throughout the world. . . . The bounty of American agriculture has the ability to spread peace, prosperity and freedom throughout the world, and we all should work to make this a reality.”