by Kerstin Lindgren
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is expected to bring a net, but marginal, boost to the economy, according to a new study by the U.S. International Trade Commission. We can expect a loss of manufacturing jobs, not a fact to take lightly, but the sector expected to tip the balance in favor of a boosted economy is food and agriculture.
Unfortunately, the high risk to public health and the environment that will accompany this boost cancels out any marginal benefit it may bring. It is not your local farmer with a small, diverse, sustainable farm that offers your summer CSA share who will benefit from the TPP. After NAFTA went into effect, U.S. farmers of most crops saw incomes plummet, and the U.S. drastically increased imports of cheap fruits and vegetables from Mexico, grown and harvested by farmworkers earning poverty wages and living and working in deplorable conditions.
The segment of the food and agriculture system that will benefit if the TPP is passed will be the large-scale industrial agriculture machine. The type of commodity cash crops that rely heavily on inputs such as genetically engineered seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. These are the types of farms that are also contributing to climate change. Though estimates vary, agriculture contributes one-third to one-half of climate changing emissions.
We need our agriculture and trade policies to invest in the type of sustainable, regenerative agriculture that will capture carbon and mitigate climate change. To create a trade policy, such as the TPP, that will reward and expand climate-change-causing conventional agriculture and then claim that the expansion of a harmful segment of the agriculture system justifies the loss of good manufacturing jobs is unacceptable.
The TPP, which has already been finalized, will be a setback to a healthy and sustainable food and agriculture system. President Obama has committed to its passage and reports are that Congress will attempt to pass it during the “lame duck” session, after the elections but before a change in office. Because the TPP is so unpopular, the best chance of passing it is after the elections.
The first step in creating the food and agriculture system we want is to reject the TPP. To do that, we need to prevent a lame duck vote.