Opposition to TPP evident in dairy producer survey

Wisconsin State Farmer

Chippewa Falls

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden is pictured on his Vernon County dairy farm. WFU is asking legislators to ensure that the Trans-Pacific Partnership include binding provisions on currency manipulation to protect U.S. farmers. Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a survey of Wisconsin dairy farmers conducted by WFU this fall favored Congress rejecting or placing a moratorium on the TPP in its current form until concerns over imported Milk Protein Concentrates (MPCs) and other low-cost imports are resolved.

— Responses to a recent survey sent out by Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) indicate dairy farmers throughout the state are against passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its current form. The survey, which was sent to all dairy producers in Wisconsin, is the first of its kind to ask dairy farmers directly about their views on the TPP.

Over 1,000 farmers responded.  The survey was designed to shed light on farmers’ views on low milk prices and other issues affecting dairy farmers in Wisconsin. Nearly 80 percent of respondents favored Congress rejecting or placing a moratorium on the TPP in its current form until concerns over imported Milk Protein Concentrates (MPCs) and other low-cost imports are resolved.

Also included in the survey were questions about concern with the United States entering into trade agreements with known currency manipulators, and the loss of U.S. sovereignty due to the expansion of Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) in the trade deal.

Ranging on a 1 to 5 scale from Not At All Concerned to Very Concerned, over half of all survey respondents identified as Very Concerned with trade agreements involving currency manipulators, compared to just 2 percent identifying as Not At All Concerned. Approximately 70 percent of responses from dairy farmers were also either Very Concerned or Somewhat Concerned over loss of U.S. sovereignty under the TPP.

A common theme found in additional comments on the TPP is a frustration with trade deals that favor cheap foreign imports and hurt the average Wisconsin farmer. Comments like “Fair trade - not free trade!” and “Fair trade only” were popular.

As one farmer put it, “I can't understand why we are importing dairy products at a time when we are dumping millions of pounds of milk in the U.S. because of overproduction.”

“The reason we are having a problem now is that we have depended on exports to get rid of surplus dairy,” another respondent said. “It was nice that for the first time we were exporting large amounts of dairy, but the world is a volatile market, and you knew we would be in trouble at some point if exports struggled.”

“Protect the U.S. citizens,” another survey commenter urged. “I understand we live in a global economy, but, our federal government’s job is to do what is best for us - not the other countries.”

WFU President and Vernon County farmer Darin Von Ruden noted that in recent weeks misleading articles have suggested that all Wisconsin dairy farmers support the TPP. “These survey results clearly show otherwise,” Von Ruden said. “In our view, if you want to know what dairy farmers think, you should ask them directly, so that’s what we did. We hope that members of Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents, and not rush through a vote on the TPP in the lame duck session.”

Von Ruden continued: “In the case of the TPP, we will be opening our borders to a flood of low-cost MPCs from New Zealand, which will displace Wisconsin milk in cheese production. This loss will supposedly be offset by giving U.S. dairy producers access to the Japanese market, but that access could evaporate overnight if Japan manipulates its currency to make U.S. imports more expensive.”  
“The TPP should be put on hold until it includes binding provisions on currency manipulation,” Von Ruden urged.  
Wisconsin Farmers Union is a member-driven organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement.

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