Livestock and commodity groups may not always agree on everything, but when it comes to authorizing the Trade Promotion Authority, interests representing all sides of agriculture are ready to get the ball rolling.
That was evident Thursday following the bipartisan, bicameral introduction of a bill that would authorize the TPA for the first time since 2007.
The TPA would facilitate the passage of pending trade agreements by allowing President Barack Obama to approve them without the threat of Congressional amendments. Instead, legislators would put such agreements to an up or down vote.
Though it limits amendments, the TPA does require that the Executive Branch seek input from Congress before, during and after negotiations. It also allows Congress to specify negotiating objectives that the Executive Branch must pursue.
This provision, groups say, would provide participating countries more assurance that Congress could not use several amendments to alter trade agreements, and could make agreements like the anxiously awaited Trans Pacific Partnership a reality.
"Both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have untold potential for U.S. agricultural exports. For these negotiations to fulfill their potential, our trade officials need the strongest possible hand when they are at the negotiating table," noted U.S. Meat Export Federation President Philip Seng in a press statement.
"Our trading partners need to know that once these agreements are negotiated, they are not going to be changed as they go through the approval process in Congress," Seng said.
Grain and commodity groups, too, supported the measure. National Grain and Feed Association Director of Legislative Affairs Jared Hill said his group is hopeful that the TPA will clarify negotiating priorities on sanitary and phytosanitary policies of other countries, which can be non-science based and affect trade of agricultural goods.
Similarly, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the U.S. Wheat Associates said TPA authorization is "an essential tool for negotiating market-opening free trade agreements."
"TPA would give our trade negotiators a unified voice and the power to push for the best deal for U.S. farmers, businesses and workers. Without TPA, we risk falling farther and farther behind in a growing international market," argued USW Chairman Dan Hughes.
Other groups supporting the measure included the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Pork Producers Federation.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and House Ways and Means Committee Chair David Camp, R-Mich., introduced the measure.