Language seems to enjoy acronyms. I don’t know if that is purposed to keep us off guard but it is rather fun to come up with our own variations for the letters. They often tell how we feel about the title but sometimes aren’t really nice to say.
TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership and TPA or Trade Promotion Authority are described as necessary trade deals and vital to our economy. It’s really being promoted as a boon to agriculture.
Farmer Markets are the simplest form of farming—a farmer grows and sells the product.
People want to know who grows the food.
Shoppers want USA grown food.
But is it really? My experience as a FMV–farmer’s market vendor has me doubting. Farmer’s markets are the simplest form of farming. It only involves choosing the crops to grow, planting, tending crops and harvesting, preparing them for market, selling directly to the customer and using the profit for living expenses.
Our vendor meetings were held in the public library or at an open air shelter house. Advertisements invited anyone to come. Unlike TPP where the agreement is held under lock and key. To read it you have to have security clearance, if you take notes, the notes can’t leave the room. Sounds like a TSD (top secret deal) with lasting ramifications.
One of the first things I learned vending was that people wanted to know who grew the food. They wanted assurance it grew on our farm and was not shipped in. To verify this, they often drove past the farm to see if we were working. More than one asked to see my hands, to see if they were calloused and rough. Satisfied, I had done the work, they purchased the vegetables.
This compares with COOL an acronym used in agriculture for Country of Origin Labelling. Yes, consumers do want to know where their food is coming from. When I am in the store, I do check labels. And yes, I choose ‘Grown in the USA’. Does TPP, TPA or WTO allow the United States to do this?
Every Farmer’s Market has its own guidelines. As the FM manager for many of those years, it was up to me to enforce the rules. Thankfully we kept them simple, few and based on common sense.
Then one year we joined in the FMNP letter abbreviation for Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program. We were promised our sales would increase. Well, our sales did increase somewhat, but we also lost some sales partially because of the new rules.
One rule was that we couldn’t close the bag filled with vegetables. In your mind picture 100 bags of radishes in a display box. A customer picks up a bag, too often, the radishes spilled out. One unhappy customer when her radishes on rolling all over ground. All we could say was rules are rules.
When involved in a multi-nation trade agreement, who decides the rules? Is our sovereignty as a nation lost?
There were those of us who did this FMVing as a business. We had days when other successful gardeners used the FM venue as a dumping ground to get rid of excess produce. They didn’t care if they sold it at bargain prices or gave it away. Price setting is against the law, so there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done when those vendors showed up.
Consider a country that does not have EPA or USDA regulations competing against countries that have those regulations plus need to pay taxes on everything that went into producing crops, and even pay a tax on any revenue made. Is that a level playing field?
It is hard for me to imagine that almost every national agriculture group, promoted its members to call their representatives to demand that these trade agreements be passed, because it was beneficial to America’s agriculture.
Well, I am not so sure how we who are growing the crops, milking the cows, feeding livestock are going to feel, when boat loads of corn and other commodities start flooding our shores.
Yes, consumers will be purchasing beef, fish, pork and poultry. As checkoff dollars do a good job at promoting the healthy side of consuming meat. But what country will that meat on the store shelves be from? Will we even know? Also, I am told that American meat is sought for on store shelves in other countries, will it no longer be labeled American?
This former FMV thinks TPP and TPA should be taken off the fast track and be labeled AT–also known as 'abandoned track'.
Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa, and authored a book titled "A Place Of Refuge". Contact her at [email protected].