Approval of trade relief big victory for agriculture

(Washington, D.C.) Senate approval late yesterday of a measure that will compensate producers hurt by unfair agricultural imports is a big victory for farmers and ranchers, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) said today. Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa offered the amendment, which RMFU has been pushing for since last year. The measure would compensate farmers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program when commodity prices fall below the average for the past five years due to import surges. The program already assists U.S. workers impacted by trade-related income losses. “We applaud Senator Conrad and Senator Grassley for their outstanding leadership on this issue,” said RMFU President Dave Carter. “When trade policy doesn’t work, farmers and ranchers are the ones who suffer and there is no way to compensate them for their losses. It is critical that the same benefits extended to workers also be extended to farmers and ranchers facing similar hardship.” “Because it provides some recourse for producers undermined by unfair trade, the TAA program will be key to building more support within the agricultural community for new trade accords,” said Carter. National Farmers Union last week sent a letter to the Senate with other farm groups endorsing the Conrad-Grassley proposal. The National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Barley Growers Association, the American Sheep Industry Association and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee also signed the letter. The amendment was offered to a bill to expand trade with Africa and the Caribbean Basin. The full bill will likely be voted on by the Senate Thursday. The House has already passed a similar trade bill that does not include the TAA provision. “We urge the congressional leadership to immediately go to conference on this bill once it passes the Senate,” said Carter. Since last fall, Farmers Union has called on Congress to compensate producers under the TAA program. At the National Agricultural Summit in April, hosted by National Farmers Union, the leadership of 28 of the nation’s farm groups unanimously supported the extension of TAA benefits to farmers and ranchers.