Several Issues Left Hanging by Debt Debate

Free trade agreements were put on hold as Congress negotiated around impasse.

Published on: Aug 5, 2011

Although Congress finally managed to hammer out an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and pass it earlier this week, pretty much all other issues were completely neglected during the time that they were stuck on this one item.

Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs, says the debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction on Capitol Hill was a disaster. He says Congress waited until the last minute, which was problematic.

"Not only because of all the drama it caused but because of everything else that was put on hold because of their attention on this debt ceiling," Woodall said. "We had an Interior EPA appropriations bill that we had hoped to get done that really went by the wayside. Our three pending trade agreements were really just abandoned because of all the attention given here. Not to mention just the attention it brought towards ag spending and the questions it brought forward on the next Farm Bill."

Free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are still pending due to the debate over Trade Adjustment Assistance. Woodall says action may be seen on those bills in September, but maybe not because of the funding bills that have to be taken care of, so a vote could be pushed back into October.

"I think one of the things that we're making clear to both sides is that we have to look at the long-term benefits of these free trade agreements," Woodall said. "The TAA, if we can have some sort of short-term reauthorization, enough to get the objections from the Democrats lifted, we are going to support that to make sure we have that long-term access to all of these markets because long-term it is great for cattle producers."

Without a vote in September or October, Woodall says the debate could easily spill into the 2012 election year.

"In election years we do a lot of talking but it's rare that we do any acting," Woodall says. "If we don't get something done, one it hurts industry, it hurts cattle producers, two it sends the wrong signal to our trading partners saying, 'Hey you can come and negotiate with the United States but don't expect a final deal.'"