Guest Opinions

TPP trade deal will burden American farmers

Eileen Stachowski
Eileen Stachowski

We want to make one thing clear, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has nothing to do with national security. It’s an agreement written by corporate lawyers to support multinational corporations and suppress the sovereignty of the U.S. government and 11 other signatory nations.

The partnership is not, as Ohio Gov. John Kasich wrote in a recent op-ed that appeared in the Statesman (Oct. 13), a mechanism to keep the U.S. an “undisputed global leader.” It is not meant to keep the U.S. one step ahead of Russia and China. Kasich’s op-ed distracts from the burden the partnership will place on the shoulders of overworked and underpaid American farmers.

The agreement was hatched behind closed doors by government negotiators and 500 advisers representing corporate interests while the public, press and members of Congress were left out. It would grant thousands of corporations unprecedented new rights to sue the U.S. government before a panel of corporate lawyers. This panel can award unlimited damages — paid by American taxpayers — when corporations claim U.S., state, local or national policies violate their “future potential profits.”

As board members of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, a grass-roots organization represented by family farmers and consumers, we have three main concerns:

▪ The agreement would allow foreign companies to challenge the U.S. if they feel that a local law — such as those for factory farms, food safety or fair labor — threatens their profits. This hurts our ability to take local democratic action to protect our food and water.

▪ Past trade deals have failed to deliver on promises of new export markets that benefit U.S. farmers. Any export gains benefit the companies that buy, process, and ship raw agricultural commodities, not farmers themselves. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers will face a surge of low-priced agricultural imports, especially cattle producers and dairy farmers who are already facing low prices.

▪  The partnership would flood our grocery stores with unsafe food imports from countries with much lower health and safety standards, environmental regulations and labor laws.

The corporate interests in favor of this bad trade deal are pushing for a decision after the election, during the lame duck session, when members of Congress are least accountable to their constituents. John Kasich is helping lead this effort. He’s been tapped as the conservative voice to get votes for the trade deal in rural parts of the country. We need to fight against this effort, and ensure that Idaho’s members of Congress vote against the agreement when it appears in the lame duck session.

The partnership threatens family farms and rural communities right here in Idaho, and is less of a trade deal and more of a corporate giveaway. It’s a corporate-driven effort to gain control of more international markets and supersede the U.S. rule of law when regulations interfere with profits. We urge Idaho’s members of Congress to publicly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership , and to do it before the Nov. 8 election.

Eileen Stachowski volunteers as a board member of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils and works to improve access to local fruits and vegetables to underserved Idaho communities. Christina Stucker-Gassi serves as a volunteer board member of the councils and advocates for better representation of small Idaho farmers. They are co-chairs of the group’s Ag and Food Task Force.