The National Chicken Council yesterday joined 70 other food and agricultural organizations in urging Congress to quickly introduce and approve legislation renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) so that major trade deals can be finalized and implemented to help the U.S. economy.

In a letter sent to all 535 congressional lawmakers, the food and agricultural groups said that the “farmers, ranchers, food and agricultural companies – and workers – they represent are heavily dependent on trade for their livelihoods.  Their ability to compete in global markets is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate impediments to international trade.”

With TPA, once negotiators finalize a deal, Congress gets an up or down vote – without amendments – on the bill. Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law being approved in August 2002 and expiring June 30, 2007.

 “Their ability to compete in global markets is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate impediments to international trade,” the letter said, pointing out that, as a result of trade agreements implemented since 1989, U.S. agricultural exports have nearly quadrupled in value, topping $152 billion in fiscal 2014.  During that period, earnings from U.S. agricultural exports as a share of cash receipts to farms have gown from 22 percent to over 35 percent.

In addition, the letter pointed out that with “every $1 in U.S. farm exports is estimated to stimulate an additional $1.27 in business activity.”   This economic activity creates jobs and “every $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports require the full-time work of approximately 6,600 Americans,” the letter said.

TPA, the groups said, will allow U.S. trade negotiators the ability, with direction and backing from Congress, “to extract the best deals possible from other countries.” Without it, “our negotiating partners would be unwilling to make the toughest concessions.”

 Without TPA, negotiating partners in trade agreements would be unwilling to make the toughest concession if they judge that the United States will be forced to backtrack on a “final” deal as a result of congressional amendments to the implementing legislation.

“In short, trade agreements such as those being negotiated with 11 other countries under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and with the European Union under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership cannot achieve U.S. goals without TPA,” the organizations said.  “TPA can become the most important regional trade negotiation ever undertaken if the result is truly comprehensive.  But for TPP to become a reality, Congress needs to pass TPA.  We urge you to vote for TPA.”  The letter to Members of Congress is available here.