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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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.  Moreover, the House-passed version of Fast Track is even worse than the original bill, eliminating simple currency measures and other enforcement provisions.…

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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.  We must keep up the pressure at this critical time.

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Say NO to Damaging Trade Agreements

May 28, 2015: The controversial bill that would put the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the Fast Track to approval passed in the Senate. We need to stop it before it moves any further in the House.

Big Business is lobbying hard to push this bill through, so we need you to speak up now!

A broad coalition of groups are opposed to Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of the threat posed to American jobs, the environment, our financial system, and more. So-called free trade deals have cost Americans millions of good jobs (we lost 700,000 with NAFTA alone) by shipping work overseas to countries with lax environmental and labor protections.

Passing the TPP would be repeating history, with potentially worse consequences. This deal includes a key provision that would allow foreign companies to sue local, state, or national governments to attack any law that they claim  hurts their anticipated profits.  The corporations could bring their claims in an international tribunal, bypassing our court system completely.  “Buy Local” preferences, energy and environmental policy, financial regulations, consumer labeling and more could be overturned by international courts in the name of corporate profits.…

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Don’t Let Big Money Sneak the Trans-Pacific Partnership Through

trans pacific partnership

January 21, 2015:  Thanks to thousands of people who spoke up for our national sovereignty and our economy, Americans successfully stopped two damaging trade agreements from being “fast tracked” last year.  But it’s not over yet!

As President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, he is still intent on getting authority for the  “Fast Track” approach, which prevents an open debate on the terms of trade agreements. And the Republican leadership appears to be prepared to abandon Congress’ constitutional duties  and give the President a blank check to essentially re-write our laws.

All of this is being driven by powerful corporations such as Walmart, Cargill, and Monsanto.  While the public isn’t allowed to see the draft trade agreements, these companies have been involved in the negotiation process.

The public deserves the right to know what is being proposed in our names fnewTPP map croppedor international agreements that could set the rules in our country not only for tariffs — but also for food safety, “Buy Local” preferences, energy and environmental policy, financial regulations, consumer labeling and more.…

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Friday Roundup: Latest Food & Activism News

newTPP map cropped

Country of Origin Labeling, Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, San Antonio Water Supply, Citizen Activism Workshop in Austin, TX

As the weather starts to cool down, food and agriculture issues are heating up.

At the federal level, The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the United States’ mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) rules for meat and poultry are an improper trade barrier. This international power play is a stark reminder of why we need to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which may be coming back in the lame duck session after the elections. (And stay tuned for the latest news on food safety regulations, coming next week!)

Meanwhile, in Texas, San Antonio politicians appear bent on jumping into a financially risky public-private partnership to build a 142-mile pipeline to grab water from rural areas and ship it down to San Antonio in order to allow development over their own environmentally sensitive aquifer recharge zone.…

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