Fair Markets – Overview

A tiny handful companies control almost every link in the food chain. These firms stand between 2 million farmers and 300 million consumers and exert tremendous power over consumer food choices and prices and exacerbate to the often-precarious economic condition of farmers. Many of the fundamental questions Americans are asking about their food system are questions about economic power and equity – for farmers, consumers and workers throughout the food supply chain.

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Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently held that the U.S. could be subject to up to $1 billion in trade penalties simply because our law requires that meat be labeled with the country where it came from. According to the WTO, Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a “trade barrier” and Americans have no right to know where their food comes from.

Within days, Congress bowed to the threat from the WTO and repealed Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork.

How many times does this have to happen before we learn a lesson? COOL, dolphin-safe tuna labels, and so much more have been attacked due to international trade agreements. Twenty of years of so-called free trade agreements have given us millions of lost jobs and an economy that benefits huge corporations at everyone else’s expense.

Now, the President is asking Congress to approve the latest – and worst – deal: the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

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How TPP Threatens Our Food System

To download this fact sheet as a printable pdf, click here

 

The text of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), negotiated by 12 countries representing around 40 percent of the global economy, was released on November 12. There are thousands of pages of text, the majority of which has nothing to do with trade issues such as tariffs and quotas, but rather with setting the rules that will govern everything from food safety to patent and medicines to labor conditions and wages.

Genetically engineered crops and foods

The TPP threatens any serious limitation on genetically engineered foods. Although this portion of the text still isn’t available, the USDA’s website states: “The TPP … includes provisions on agricultural biotechnology that commit TPP countries to foster transparency in their decision-making processes, to work together on situations of low-level presence, and to promote timely authorization of products of modern biotechnology.”

Translating that into regular English: Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops, or even require GMO labeling.…

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TPP text released – 90 days to stop it!

 

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been released — and it’s as bad, if not worse, than expected.

When you think of “free trade,” you probably think about cargo ships, tariffs, and quotas. But only a small portion of the TPP addresses those issues. Instead, the majority of this long, complicated agreement sets the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S. – on issues such as agriculture, food, intellectual property and patents, banking, and more. The agreement gives international corporations the ability to trump properly enacted domestic laws by attacking them as supposed trade barriers.

Here are just some of the highlights:newTPP map cropped

  • The TPP gives importers the ability to challenge individual border inspection decisions, second-guessing U.S. inspectors about what food is safe and not safe to let into our country.
  • The TPP threatens any serious limitation on genetically engineered foods. Although this portion of the text still isn’t available, the USDA’s website states: “The TPP … includes provisions on agricultural biotechnology that commit TPP countries to foster transparency in their decision-making processes, to work together on situations of low-level presence, and to promote timely authorization of products of modern biotechnology.”  Translating that into regular English: Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops, or even require GMO labeling.

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Largest trade deal in history

October 6, 2015: Yesterday, trade negotiators finalized the text for the largest trade deal in history – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While the public has been shut out of the process, massive multinational corporations have been deeply involved in developing the TPP and have crafted it to suit their interests.

Leaked documents have revealed just how terrible this trade deal is, including a provision that would allow companies to sue the federal, state, or even local governments over democratically enacted laws that they claim hurt their profits.

That means that if the TPP is approved by Congress, local initiatives like GMO labeling laws and Buy Local preferences could be challenged in international trade courts.

We’ve had two decades since NAFTA to see the results of free trade agreements that override domestic policy: lost jobs and lower standards. The TPP will take us even further down this failed path.

Now it’s up to Congress to pass or reject the TPP.

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Fighting for Country of Origin Labeling

Last week, FARFA joined with over 140 other organizations in a joint letter urging Congress to reject repealing or weakening Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken.

The huge meatpackers are pushing Congress to either repeal COOL completely, or to turn it into a voluntary program, which would let the food companies and meatpackers decide whether or not to tell American consumers where their meat comes from.

The bottom line is that Congress needs to — at least — wait and see what happens when the World Trade Organization case is done.  Although the WTO has ruled that the U.S. COOL violates trade agreements, the big issue remains — what are the damages?  Last week, the U.S. government filed a brief with the WTO that totally debunks Canada and Mexico’s absurd claims — it said that Canada and Mexico’s claim for trade penalties was nonsense and that the reasonable damages would be about $91 million, a tiny fraction of the absurd $3 billion figure Canada and Mexico are using to bully the Congress.…

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Fast Track has passed, but the fight continues

 

June 30, 2015: Despite widespread opposition, the House and Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority, known as Fast Track, and the President signed it into law this week.

The Obama Administration and the Republican Congressional leadership resorted to bizarre procedural steps, extensive backroom deals and arm twisting, and even retaliation against those who opposed Fast Track, in order to force it through.  (The NY Times has an interesting article on some of the politics behind passing Fast Track here)

Passage of Fast Track gives Obama enhanced powers to conclude negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and continue advancing trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other such agreements.  Fast Track will limit Congressional debate over trade agreements and prevent any filibusters or amendments.

While the passage of Fast Track authority is a severe setback, the fight is not over.  Fast Track severely and improperly limits Congress’s role – but ultimately Congress will still have to vote to ratify any trade agreement after the President signs it.…

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Alert: Tell your Senators to vote NO on Fast Track

June 19, 2105:  After the defeat of part of the Fast Track bill last week, President Obama and the Republican leadership found a new way to push this unpopular power grab – by attaching it to an unrelated bill for police officers’ and firefights’ pensions.  Using this underhanded approach, they narrowly succeeded in passing Fast Track in the House.  (You can see how your Representative voted here)

But the fight is not over yet!  Since the House did not pass the Senate version of the bill, it has to go back to the Senate yet again.

Several of the Senators who voted yes on Fast Track initially only did so because: (1) the bill contained Trade Adjustment Assistance to help displaced workers; and (2) they received assurances that the House would not let the Export-Import Bank expire at the end of June.  But the TAA portion has been removed, and the House appears very unlikely to re-approve the Export-Import Bank, breaking both conditions. …

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We won! But the other side is coming back

 

You did it!  Together with thousands of other Americans, you convinced a majority of the U.S.  Representatives to vote against the package of bills that would have put the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on the Fast Track to approval.

The bad news is that the other side isn’t giving up, and they have another chance to try to push through Fast Track this week.

Here’s what happened: the House separated the Fast Track bill passed by the Senate into two parts.  First was a vote on a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program for  workers who lose their jobs due to trade agreements.  Then there was a vote on the Fast Track process itself, called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  Both parts needed to pass for the bill to pass.  The TPA was approved by a very slim margin, but the TAA was not — killing the bill, at least for a moment.…

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Last Chance: Stop Fast Track for TPP

 

June 10, 2015:   We just got word that the House is expected to vote on the bill that would put the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the fast track to approval this Friday.

We need to stop this before it goes any further!  Please call your U.S. Representative at 888-804-8311 and urge him or her to vote NO on Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Fast Track would allow dangerous trade agreements like the TPP to be rushed through Congress, circumventing ordinary review, amendment and debate procedures.  It is a virtual rubber-stamp for trade deals that threaten our economy, environment, and even our basic sovereignty.newTPP map cropped

Your calls are making a difference!  Some Congressional offices have reported receiving calls 200-to-1 against Fast Track, and that public outcry has moved votes our way.  But members of Congress are under tremendous pressure from corporate lobbyists and the White House to sell out their constituents. …

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Say NO to Damaging Trade Agreements

(January 2016):  Last fall, the World Trade Organization (WTO) held that the U.S. could be subject to up to $1 billion in trade penalties simply because our law requires that meat be labeled with the country where it came from. According to the WTO,  Americans have no right to know where their food comes from.

Within days, Congress bowed to the threat from the WTO and repealed Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork.

How many times does this have to happen before we learn a lesson? COOL, dolphin-safe tuna labels, and so much more have been attacked due to international trade agreements. Twenty of years of so-called free trade agreements have given us millions of lost jobs and an economy that benefits huge corporations at everyone else’s expense.

Now, the President is asking Congress to approve the latest – and worst – deal: the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

This two thousand page document would set the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S.…

Read more »