Imagine you were starting a business to sell strawberries in Rutherford County. There is a market in Rutherford County for locally grown strawberries, so you focus in your county before selling to consumers in other counties in Tennessee. You are able to hire a few neighbors and pay them good wages to help you grow, pick, pack, and ship the strawberries across Rutherford County.
Your strawberries are very popular in Rutherford County, and word spreads across Tennessee about your strawberries. Rutherford County makes up about 5 percent of our state’s total population and demand for your strawberries increases beyond your county. You decide to expand your operation to reach the other 95 percent of consumers in the state.
As you start looking to sell your strawberries in other counties, you find burdensome trade restrictions and high taxes on each strawberry you want to sell across county lines. Also, your strawberries face slow clearance procedures and other barriers that increase the cost of each strawberry you hope to sell.
Common sense trade agreements are needed between Rutherford County and other counties to get rid of these trade barriers and taxes.
For farmers across Tennessee, this scenario is very much a reality with regards to gaining access to new consumers across the world. Ninety-five percent of possible consumers for Tennessee’s farmers are found outside of the United States and trade agreements with other countries play an important role in removing existing trade barriers and taxes to level the playing field for our farmers.
Next month, Congress will look at ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as TPP. TPP is a 12-nation trade agreement that would tear down the barriers that currently close off markets in the Asia-Pacific region to Tennessee farmers and their crops. Access to these markets directly supports economic growth and job creation for farmers and their communities across Tennessee.
Tennessee’s farmers need access to more consumers to export their product, and the Asia-Pacific market is growing. The Asia-Pacific region’s middle class grew by two billion people in the last two decades. The region’s spending power is greater than ever as Asia’s economy will grow by nearly $10 trillion in the next five years. Unfortunately, we are behind in the game as farmers in other countries are already trading in the Asia-Pacific region due to more favorable trade agreements. Without TPP, Tennessee’s farmers will see declining exports and market share in this region.
Trade agreements create free markets, and free markets are essential for economic prosperity for Tennessee’s farmers. TPP would increase cash receipts from the Asia-Pacific region, most notably Japan, by almost $70 million a year. Net exports would increase by almost $40 million a year while adding hundreds of good paying jobs in every corner of Tennessee. More customers for Tennessee’s farmers – whether in Tracy City or Tokyo, Orlinda or Osaka – are a positive for our state’s future prosperity.
Much like our hypothetical strawberry farmer in Rutherford County, Tennessee’s farmers face an uncertain reality without trade agreements like TPP. If TPP is ratified, Tennessee’s farmers would be able to create more jobs and pay higher wages to Tennessee workers.
I urge all Tennesseans to contact your Member of Congress and ask them to stand with Tennessee farmers and support the TPP.”
Jeff Aiken, president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, is a native of Washington County and farms 900 acres near Telford.