The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council on Monday jointly urged Congress to enact new Trade Promotion Authority legislation, saying it is crucial to securing well-negotiated trade agreements.
In a letter to Congress, NMPF and USDEC said renewing TPA, which expired in 2007, will increase congressional influence over trade negotiations and lead to agreements that are better for both the country and the dairy industry.
Eight former U.S. secretaries of agriculture also released an open letter supporting TPA late last week.
"By having a clear framework for participating in the process and identified priorities that a successful agreement must address, Congress increases its influence over these agreements as they are being written," said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
"TPA plays a key role in supporting a strong trade policy agenda," USDEC President Tom Suber added. "That is particularly important to the dairy industry, since it now exports the equivalent of one-seventh of its U.S. milk production."
Suber said last year alone, the U.S. industry exported more than $7 billion in dairy products.
The dairy groups urged Congress to approve TPA, but also to become engaged in the final stages of negotiations with 11 other countries over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"To achieve an agreement with net benefits to the U.S. dairy industry, access to the region's most protected dairy markets – Japan and Canada – is imperative," Mulhern said. "While some progress has been madein Japan, both of these countries need to open their markets to a full range of U.S. dairy products."
Suber said another key issue is improving safeguards for using generic food names, including many common cheese names, in export markets. The European Union, he noted, is attempting to erect trade barriers by limiting the use of names like feta, parmesan and asiago among many others, to particular geographic areas.