Ag Today January 27, 2017

Local farmers express disappointment in U.S. withdrawal from TPP

By Alysson Aredas

Staff Reporter aaredas@turlockjournal.com

In his first Monday in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a move which left some local growers feeling apprehensive as to what comes next.

“In the last several years we’ve had good, strong trade agreements agriculturally speaking with Pacific Rim partners,” said Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Executive Director Wayne Zipser. “We are hoping that the administration comes up with a substitute agreement that would be favorable to agriculture.”

Zipser said that California growers have benefitted especially from strong trade negotiations with Pacific Rim partners and that he and other growers are a “little nervous” as to what the other members of the TPP’s reactions to the United State’s withdrawal will be.

“The number one crop in Stanislaus County is almonds. Walnuts are really close behind. Those are strongly traded products in the Pacific Rim and those are things that we are really looking at,” said Zipser. “We’re hoping that doesn’t change anything as far as our trade because it is a high demand product. We are hoping the stability of the market stays intact because it took years to build.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation, which represents more than 48,000 members statewide as part of a larger nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members, expressed disappointment in President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the TPP trade agreement, calling for continued efforts to break down barriers on agricultural trade.

“Trade in food and farm products benefits both rural and urban areas of California,” said CFBF President Paul Wenger, who farms in Modesto. “For example, farm products represent the top export from the Port of Oakland, and agreements such as the TPP would allow us to reach more potential customers in key Pacific Rim markets.”

After withdrawing from the TPP, Trump said that next steps are to pursue “bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.” As for the CFBF, Wenger said he hopes the administration will follow up with policies aimed at opening foreign markets for American farm products.

“We operate in a world where it’s much easier for crops from other nations to enter the U.S. than for American farm goods to be sold elsewhere,” said Wenger. “We will encourage the administration to work on smaller-scale agreements that would allow American farmers to trade with other nations on an equal basis.”

Wenger noted that the administration also discussed reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

“If NAFTA is reopened, its agricultural provisions should be left alone,” said Wenger. “We don’t want successful agricultural trade to be caught in any conflict about other portions of the agreement.”