DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) opposes Congress’ approval of fast track trade negotiating authority for President George Bush. Approval of fast track authority would prohibit Congress from making any changes in trade agreements negotiated by the president. Congress could only approve or defeat such a measure.
“This is not the first time Farmers Union has opposed fast track negotiating authority for the president,” said RMFU President Dave Carter. “We believe members of Congress should have not only the right but the duty to examine the provisions of trade agreements and to make amendments as needed.”
RMFU, which represents independent farmers and ranchers from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, says recent trade agreements have not benefited family-sized producers. The facts seem to back up RMFU’s assertion, as small U.S. farms (those with sales under $100,000 annually) went out of business six times faster since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1993 than during the preceding five years. “Not only has trade with Canada and Mexico fallen by $1.5 billion since NAFTA was enacted, overall farm income has fallen from $59 billion prior to 1993 to a projected $41 billion in 2001. This is in real dollars and does not account for inflation,” Carter said.
According to a study issued in late June by Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, larger export volumes of agricultural goods have not netted higher incomes. Between 1989 and 1999, Canadian farm exports doubled, yet Canadian net farm incomes declined by 19 percent during this same period. In Mexico, falling commodity prices caused by increased agricultural imports and the elimination of domestic farm programs have resulted in many small producers selling their farms to multinational corporations.
“During the NAFTA debate, producers were promised higher profits from increased export opportunities, and consumers were told to expect lower prices due to increased competition. In reality, the opposite has occurred, but multinational food conglomerations are the ones that have benefited, many of them tripling their profits since NAFTA was enacted,” Carter said.