April 1, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON (April 1, 2015) – “Our elected officials in Washington – both Republicans and Democrats – are wandering the halls of Congress like lemmings in a sort of ‘free trade trance,’ and if they don’t come to their senses soon, we’ll all pay the price,” says National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson in a guest column in today’s The Hill.

Johnson argues that the free traders are so convinced that we should sign every agreement possible because more trade in and of itself is necessarily better, that they’re willing to hand over authority to the president to negotiate these deals – known as fast track – in secret. He also points out that Congress has signed plenty of these deals in the past and the record is less than spectacular.

“After signing massive trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, the prosperity and jobs that were promised to flood our nation and lift our middle class like the rising tide have failed to appear,” he notes. “In 2014, the trade deficit increased to $505 billion, representing nearly 3 percent of the nation’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and acting as a drag on the overall economy.”

Johnson notes that currency manipulation remains the main reason why NFU has strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the massive deals currently being considered by Congress. Currency manipulation allows governments to keep their currencies undervalued and boost exports, limit imports and create large current-account surpluses.

“The U.S. deficit with Japan reached nearly $80 billion in 2013, and currency manipulation was the most significant cause of the deficit,” notes Johnson. “It is estimated that the trade deficit with Japan alone resulted in 896,600 jobs eliminated in the nation across nearly all congressional districts.”

Johnson also points out that the trade deal with South Korea, which is celebrating its 3-year anniversary, has failed to meet its promises as well. “When we signed this deal, the American public was promised an increase in exports and at least 70,000 new jobs. Instead, our exports to South Korea are down and we’ve lost 84,000 jobs. For every new U.S. car sold to Korea since we signed the deal, they sell us 14 new cars, all made with jobs that could and should be here.”

Johnson explains that many may wonder why one of the nation’s largest organizations representing family farmers and ranchers is coming out against massive trade agreements, which have by and large benefitted this nation’s agriculture sector. “First, we’re not only farmers and ranchers, we’re Americans, and we’re tired of seeing our great nation drawing the short straw in every trade deal we sign,” he says, and the second reason is more practical.

“As farmers and ranchers, we understand that the vast majority of the products we grow – whether it’s tomatoes or cattle – are sold domestically. And if we continue to lose good jobs and dig ourselves into a deeper debt hole as a nation, our major market – our fellow Americans – won’t have the means to purchase the food, fiber and fuel we grow.”

“The easiest way to keep the lemmings from charging over the cliff is to deny this president, and every president of any party that follows, fast track authority,” he concludes.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.