AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Trade is a top priority for U.S. producers, National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson told the Cattle Producers of Washington at their annual meeting.
Johnson outlined his organization’s position on two key trade-related topics, including country-of-origin-labeling and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty.
• Country-of-origin labeling: The NFU expects a decision by the World Trade Organization in early December. The WTO will determine how the U.S. Trade Representative must respond to challenges against COOL made by Canada and Mexico.
The NFU supports voluntary labeling, which Johnson said is the only thing that can be salvaged from the original mandatory COOL law. Repealing the law would make it possible for any animal imported to the United States for slaughter to be considered a U.S. product, he said.
“As producers of meat products, we want our name on that product,” Johnson said. “We don’t want consumers to be deceived into believing this is produced by American farmers and ranchers when in fact it may not be.”
• The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The NFU opposes the TPP deal between the United States and 11 other countries.
The biggest concern is that TPP does not deal with the manipulation of currency by countries the United States trades with, he said.
“They make it so that their goods are cheaper to our buyers and our goods are more expensive to their consumers to buy,” he said.
Johnson expects the United States to approve TPP or risk losing credibility with its trading partners. It puts the country in a tough spot, he said.
“We approve it, we get screwed because our economy continues to go in the toilet as a consequence of approving another deal that’s going to further increase the (trade) deficit,” he said. “If we turn it down, we’ll lose additional standing in the rest of the world.”
Speaking about other issues, Johnson said the NFU supports voluntary incentives to correct climate change. The organization supports renewable fuels and energy standards.
Climate change’s biggest impact is likely to be more extreme weather, Johnson said.
“Those kinds of extreme events do a lot of damage to this industry, but there are things we can do in agriculture,” he said, pointing to use of grazing methods to sequester greenhouse gases.
“Let’s figure out ways of putting public policies in place to reward you for following the right kinds of conservation practices.”
The NFU is looking to build its membership in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, Johnson said.
“We think the work you all are doing here is something for us to pay attention to on a national level,” he told CPOW ranchers.