House Members Stand Up for Cattle Producers in Peru Trade Agreement

US - Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter today to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that expressed significant concerns regarding the beef trade provisions of the U.S. – Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), which may be presented to Congress for a vote soon after the November elections.
calendar icon 19 October 2006
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“R-CALF USA commends this bipartisan group of Representatives who joined together to stand up for U.S. cattle producers,” said R-CALF USA President and Region V Director Chuck Kiker.

Signers included the following representatives from major cattle-producing states: Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash., Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., and Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont.

The letter notes appreciation for USTR’s efforts to open markets to U.S. beef, but also points out several areas in which the agreement fails to deliver for U.S. cattle producers. The document calls attention to serious deficiencies in this agreement, which is the first free trade agreement (FTA) the U.S. has signed with a major beef-producing nation in South America.

The letter notes that other South American countries, once health and safety problems were addressed, quickly ramped up beef exports to the United States, and also expresses concern that the agreement fails to provide any assurances to U.S. cattle producers in the face of a similar threat of increased beef imports from Peru.

The letter also calls attention to USTR’s failure to uphold Congressional negotiating objectives regarding improved import-relief mechanisms that recognize the unique characteristics of perishable and cyclical agricultural commodities, including livestock and meat products.

“While Peru achieved an important safeguard on some types of beef imports from the U.S. under this agreement, the U.S. negotiated no such safeguard for its beef imports from Peru – despite instructions from Congress to do so,” said R-CALF USA Director of Government Relations Jess Peterson.

The letter also notes that the weak rules of origin in the Peru agreement would allow beef produced from cattle transshipped into Peru from other South American countries to unfairly gain access to the U.S. market under the agreement’s preferential market access terms – greatly expanding the risk of import surges and diluting the benefits of the agreement for cattle producers in both the U.S. and Peru.

“We are eager for the USTR to negotiate FTAs that provide balanced market access opportunities for cattle and beef, include safeguards against import surges and price volatility, and contain meaningful rules of origin,” the letter concludes. “However, without progress on these fronts, it will be increasingly difficult for us to explain the benefits of new FTAs to cattle producers in our states.”

Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) President Lee Engelhardt offered this comment: “Congresswoman McMorris understands the struggles cattle producers face with surging imports, and her support for this letter is key to keeping cattle producers in Washington and across the country strong and competitive.”

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association (CICA) President Doug Zalesky said, “Congressman Salazar is one of us, he knows the impact free trade agreements have on agriculture and recognizes the need to fight for fair trade.”

“Virginia is now ranked 15th in cattle production – we need to keep this industry strong in our state and across the country, noted R-CALF USA Member Eddie Shelton, of Union Hall, Va., as he thanked Goode for his support. “Congressman Goode is working hard to fix U.S. trade policies, and Virginia’s cattle producers sure appreciate his support for fair trade.”

“As a Texas cattle producer and representative of producers along the U.S.–Mexico border, we know the risks posed by importing cattle and beef without first getting the trade rules right,” commented Bruce Dopslauf, president of the Independent Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) of Texas. “Congressman Doggett’s support on this letter is exactly what we need to start moving these agreements in the right direction for U.S. cattle producers.”

“Congresswoman Cubin knows that trade can be beneficial as long as Wyoming cattle producers have mechanisms in FTAs that prevent packers from being able to manipulate imports of beef to drive down the true market value of our product,” said R-CALF USA Region II Director Randy Stevenson.

“Congressman Pomeroy has repeatedly expressed his frustration with the direction we are going on these FTAs and the need to re-evaluate the way we are drafting FTAs,” said Pat Becker, President of the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND). “His support helps move the debate forward so we can start writing trade rules that work for U.S. cattle producers.”

“Congresswoman Herseth has always been a champion on trade, and here again, she stepped up to the plate for U.S. cattle producers,” noted Rick Fox, President of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA).

R-CALF USA Co-Founder and Past President Leo McDonnell offered this comment about Rehberg’s participation: “Montana cattle producers appreciate deeply Congressman Rehberg’s support in this letter, and his continued support to ensure trade is enhancing and that the guidelines presented by Congress for trade agreements are adhered to.”

“Thousands of cattle producers across the country appreciate the support for fair trade shown by these Members of Congress,” Kiker concluded. “They know we can trade, and keep the U.S. cattle industry competitive at the same time, but in order to do so, we need to strengthen the rules we include in these FTAs to make sure everyone is competing on a level playing field.” News Desk
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