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McHugh to Administration: Dairy Must Be Protected During Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

Submitted article
U.S. Congressman John M. McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) sent a letter today to United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab expressing reservations regarding the announcement that the United States will enter negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement.  Congressman McHugh is deeply concerned that this potential free trade agreement with the nations of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore would be detrimental to the U.S. dairy industry, particularly as New Zealand is the world’s largest dairy exporter.  In the 23rd Congressional District, there are approximately 2,000 dairy farms.  Congressman McHugh’s letter is as follows:

Dear Ambassador Schwab:

I write to express my deep concerns about the recent announcement that the United States will enter into negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement with the nations of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore.  I fully recognize that there may be several considerations, both economic and other concerns, that have prompted this Administration to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) with these nations.

That having been said, I respectfully urge that careful consideration be given to the significant impact that any FTA will have on our nation’s dairy industry.  Specifically, I have deep reservations regarding any agreement that acts to provide New Zealand, the world’s largest dairy exporter, with additional access to the United States’ agricultural markets.

As this Administration is well aware from previous correspondence, the dairy industry is vitally important to the economy of New York.  As measured using farm cash receipts, New York State is the nation’s third largest dairy producer.  However, dairy ranks first among New York’s agricultural commodities in terms of farm cash receipts, accounting for 45.9% of the overall total.  Moreover, this sector is critical to the economy of my own 23rd Congressional District, where there are approximately 2,000 dairy farms with some 190,000 milk cows.

I am particularly concerned by reports that a single dairy cooperative in New Zealand controls over 90% of that nation’s milk production and owns exclusive rights to import licenses to the world’s markets.  It is also my understanding that, until recently, the dairy sector operated with extensive government involvement and that the benefits of this past involvement would still provide a significant competitive advantage over America’s dairy producers.

Put simply, the New Zealand dairy industry has the ability to flood our market with new imports, including such dairy products as cheese, milk proteins, butter fat, and dairy food preparations.  These actions would likely result in the closure of thousands of small and medium-sized American dairy farms, and negatively impact hundreds of rural manufacturers.

Again, I respectfully request that you make every effort to ensure that any trade agreement with our ally New Zealand does not further weaken America’s hard-working dairy farmers, the backbone of our nation’s rural economy.  America’s farmers already face an extraordinarily difficult economic climate, and we must not add to it.  Thank you for your attention to this critical manner.