ASA’s Wilkins talks TPA at critical time for trade in Washington

Farm Forum

WASHINGTON – On May 14, American Soybean Association (ASA) First Vice President Richard Wilkins took part in two separate trade briefings in Washington as the association ramps up its pressure on Congress to pass legislation that would grant trade promotion authority to the White House. Wilkins, who farms in Greenwood, Del., comes to Washington as a bill to extend TPA to the Obama Administration is projected to come to the floor. In his comments, Wilkins expressed optimism at the bill’s progress in the Senate.

“ASA is pleased to see the Senate move toward a vote on TPA. Trade is a critically important an issue for soybean farmers, and trade promotion authority is one of the top priorities for ASA in the 114th Congress, so we’ll continue to push for passage of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act,” Wilkins said. “The passage of the bill by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee shows that there is support on both sides of the aisle to get a deal done, and we’ve already seen both parties come together to address their differences. That signals, to us at least, that we’re making progress.”

In comments during a discussion on trade with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, followed by a press conference organized by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Cory Gardner of Colorado, Wilkins pointed to the necessity of TPA, also known as fast-track authority to quickly and effectively negotiating and enacting new agreements.

“We can’t conclude agreements expeditiously without Trade Promotion Authority. In the immediate term, this means the Trans-Pacific Partnership with our partners along the Pacific Rim. In the future, it means agreements with Europe and a broad range of new partners,” said Wilkins. “The bill gives USTR the ability to get the best deal possible for American farmers, and it provides Congress the oversight it needs to ensure each agreement works for everyone.”

Wilkins also highlighted the significant role global trade plays in the continued growth of the soybean industry in the U.S. Soybeans and soy products are the most valuable U.S. agricultural export, with 2014 exports of roughly $30.5 billion in soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil. Between 2000 and 2010, the value of U.S. oilseed and product exports more than doubled, from $9 billion to over $20 billion.

“TPA is critical for soybean farmers because new trade agreements expand market access and help American soybean farmers as we look to maintain our position at the vanguard of world agricultural trade,” Wilkins said.