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President, Vilsack tout TPP benefits

Leaders of agricultural organizations meet one-one-one with President Obama to hear benefits of recently agreed trade deal.

The President traveled to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday where he joined secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack for a meeting with agriculture and business leaders on the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for American business and workers.

President Obama said with this trade agreement, which spans nearly 40% of the global economy, will enable the sale more products for agriculture. Currently over 18,000 taxes and tariffs are placed on America’s products in other countries. “Under this agreement, all those foreign taxes will fall,” Obama claimed. “Most of them will fall to zero.”

U.S. exports of agricultural products to the 11 other TPP countries totaled $63 billion in 2014, 42% of total U.S. agricultural exports.

Vilsack said without question, “agriculture is going to be a winner with TPP.” Overall it is estimated that total U.S. exports could increase by $130 billion and “if that’s true and agriculture takes its historic share of 9% of total exports, that is billions of dollars of additional opportunity.”

For any trade agreement negotiated there is give and take, Vilsack said. It is important for different industries to recognize not any single industry got everything they desired.

Included in the meeting was National Chicken Council president Michael Brown and American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman. Other agricultural groups were invited but were unable to attend.

Final details are being prepared but the process moving forward will be for agricultural groups to look at whether the agreement is something that provides enough benefits as a whole to lobby Congress for approval. It will be 30 days before final text is made public, 60 days the text will be available for public viewing and then the President and Congress have 40 days to ratify the agreement.

Dairy producers continue to reserve judgement on supporting the deal. Vilsack explained the final negotiations include expanded access to Canada and Japan to some of U.S. dairy products, especially for cheese, whole milk powder, skim milk powder and fluid milk. He also said the final deal addresses geographical indicators and sets up a due process that if there is an overly broad geographical indicator it can be contested and questioned before being enacted.

Under the TPP, Canada’s supply management system regarding milk, eggs and poultry will be "partially opened up to foreign countries over a five-year period." According to the media, the Canadian government will provide new compensation programs to help out producers negatively impacted by the agreement.

The Dairy Farmer of Canada’s initial assessment is that in order to secure the trade agreement for Canada, the sum of access granted to the U.S., New Zealand and Japan will be 3.25% of Canada's 2016 milk production.

NCC appreciated the meeting with the President and Vilsack for reaching out to the animal agriculture sector.  “It was a positive meeting and NCC appreciates being included. Chicken producers remain optimistic about the deal, but the devil is in the details,” NCC spokesman Tom Super said.

Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. associate director of legislative affairs, said beef could see substantial tariff reductions. Japan, one of the largest markets for U.S. beef, could see its tariffs drop 11% from 38.5% to 27.5% and by year 16 would be phased down to 9%.

Bacus said at the end of the day he hopes agriculture will be supportive of the final deal. “This is a vast improvement over the status quo. To delay any further consideration of this bill or stand in the way of it would be a great detriment to U.S. agriculture,” Bacus said.

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