(June 30, 2015) Billings, Mont. – According to R-CALF USA, yesterday’s signing of the highly controversial Trade Promotion Authority bill, also known as Fast Track, by President Obama signals a new wave of free trade agreements that will only add to the United States’ already burgeoning trade deficit. The measure was widely touted as the catalyst needed to assure passage of the soon-to-be-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement that includes the United States and 11 other countries.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said there is an obvious reason that the Fast Track bill was unable to pass Congress until after the President and the GOP leadership began in earnest to promise political favors, twist arms, and actually retaliate against congressional members who initially voted against the legislation.
“Fast Track barely passed Congress because it is bad public policy and it is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation,” he said.
In 2012 several members of Congress requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct and an investigation to determine why U.S. sheep prices had collapsed and why the commercial sheep industry was in a state of decline. The investigation completed in 2013 concluded that a principal cause for the commercial sheep industry’s demise was imported lamb that was entering the U.S. at low prices.
Most of the low-cost lamb entering the U.S. is imported from Australia, and the rest is imported from New Zealand. Soon after the U.S. entered a free trade agreement with Australia, the U.S. sheep industry began importing more lamb and mutton than the domestic sheep industry could produce.
“Our sheep industry is now the first U.S. livestock industry to be outsourced and the only reason for that is because the President uses Fast Track authority to pass free trade agreements that benefit multinational corporations while harming specific industries in the U.S., like the sheep industry,” Bullard said.
Bullard said that because the TPP includes both Australia and New Zealand, the commercial sheep industry in the U.S. is likely to shrink even more and, he warns, “Because the sheep industry is the cattle industry’s canary in the coal mine, our cattle industry is certain to follow.”
According to data compiled by R-CALF USA, the U.S. trade deficit with the 20 countries the U.S. currently has free trade agreements with was over $2 billion in 2014 in the trade of cattle, beef, beef variety meats and processed beef.
“In just the past 25 years we have accumulated a trade deficit of over $40 billion with these 20 free trade countries and the new Fast Track bill will guarantee that these deficits continue to mount.
“The Fast Track bill represents a continuation of our nation’s failed trade policies that have all but destroyed our commercial sheep industry and are now poised to drain the economic vitality out of our U.S. cattle industry,” Bullard concluded.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.