Growers alarmed by planned TPP tobacco carve-out

The Tobacco Growers’ Association of North Carolina (TGANC) has said that it is alarming and un-American that for the first time in history the White House is actively working to discriminate against its own farmers in trade agreement negotiations.

In a letter to a 15-member North Carolina Congressional Delegation, the TGANC said it had learned that the US Trade Representative had actively pushed for and was responsible for including tobacco carve out language in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

The letter, signed by TGANC president, Tim Yarbrough, and executive vice president, Graham Boyd, said that the organization understood that throughout the entire agreement negotiations, the delegation, which comprised members of congress, were denied preview of the specific language of the agreement.

‘It is alarming and un-American that for the first time in history the White House is actively working to discriminate against its own farmers in trade agreement negotiations,’ the letter said. ‘Our government is supposed to promote, protect and defend all of American agriculture. Shockingly our current trade ambassador has been very clear that he is more than happy to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership that specifically discriminates against tobacco farm families and their rights to be included in free trade agreements.

‘This administration promised North Carolina’s congressional delegation that they would not unfairly target tobacco growers in the TPP talks and we are profoundly disappointed to learn that this promise has been broken.  If the White House truly believes they are standing up for the best interests of the thousands of farm families and the industries that service their segment of the economy and community, then I invite them to have a real conversation with us and learn that we do not share their views.

‘Tobacco is our state’s largest agricultural export and plays a vital role in promoting economic growth and prosperity. According to economists the TPP … could represent as much a $100 million in increased export opportunity for our farmers. We call on the administration to focus on promoting the best interests of the North Carolina agricultural community and urge our elected representatives in Washington to resist any trade agreement that treats North Carolina and all other American tobacco growers as second-class farmers.

‘Let us reemphasize that the only loser in this carve out will be the American farmer.  The industry of “big tobacco” companies already manufacturers and [sells] products in the many regions of the world the TPP would encompass. The reality is that such products are, and will remain absent of our US grown leaf. Consumers will still maintain the choice to buy and use tobacco products constituted from leaf grown in other inferior regions of the world when compared to the quality and accountability of American grown tobacco under our government’s agronomic and production standards.

‘We respectfully call on the entire delegation to oppose the TPP as it stands and demand the removal of the tobacco language before it comes before congress.  Our state and its economy deserve your support.’