Open Letter: Students against Fast Track and the TPP

May 27, 2015

In response to the threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for a real food system, RFC has written an open letter to Congress, calling on them to oppose this harmful trade deal and the undemocratic "Fast Track" process for moving it through Congress.

Dear Members of Congress,

On behalf of the rising generation of voters and thousands of students advocating for real food on campuses across the country, we urge you to stand firm against granting Fast Track -- also known as Trade Promotion Authority -- to the President.

Fast Track would allow the president to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and send it Congress for an expedited vote, with no opportunity for our representatives to amend the deal’s sweeping provisions affecting consumers’ food safety, family farmers’ livelihoods, and our future economic stability.  

For most of us, as Millennials born in the mid-nineties, our entire lives have been framed by free trade -- from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the World Trade Organization (WTO). So before we rush to approve this next trade deal, let's examine what impact previous ones have had on our food and agriculture system.

Under existing trade pacts, U.S. family farmers have had to endure rising agricultural imports and declining agricultural trade balances. For example, under NAFTA, the U.S. agricultural trade balance with Mexico and Canada has fallen from a $2.5 billion trade surplus in the year before the deal to a $1.1 billion trade deficit in 2014. And in the first three years of the Korea Free Trade Agreement -- the U.S. template for the TPP -- the US agricultural trade balance with Korea has fallen as well.

It’s true that some large agribusinesses, such as the giant meat and poultry-processing companies, are promoting the TPP. But these are the same companies whose business model depends on paying their workers low wages and pushing financial risk down to their farmer-suppliers in order to maximize profits.  For family farmers, the TPP would mean more of the same status quo trade model that has not been working; under NAFTA and NAFTA expansion pacts, 180,000 U.S. family farms have disappeared.  

Furthermore, the TPP would dramatically expand U.S. exposure to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) -- a parallel judicial system for multinational corporations. Companies could use ISDS to challenge public interest policies such as new rules on GMO labeling or limits on dangerous pesticides or toxic chemicals in our food.  

In return for more lost family farms, low wages, and food safety threats, what would the TPP deliver? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own study predicted only tiny increases in agricultural output by 2025 (0.4 percent in meat and 0.3 percent in fruits/vegetables, for example) and “no measurable effects on U.S. real GDP.”  

As a national network of students working in partnership with farmers, fishermen, and food chain workers, we are united in our concern that the TPP will threaten the progress we have made in improving the equity and sustainability of our food supply. This is a key issue for our generation.

The problem here is not trade itself. There are ways for us to engage in the global economy while strengthening our local economies. There are ways to support people, farms, and small businesses in the United States and abroad. The TPP is not one of them.

Instead of trying to Fast Track the TPP through Congress, let’s correct the mistakes made in former trade deals and determine criteria for equitable agreements in the future.

We are the generation that will be most deeply impacted by the trade deals we make today. Therefore, we stand together with more than 2,000 organizations around the country in urging you to oppose Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


Amelia Goldstein, Anna Greenberg, Sunny Kim, Nina Mukherji, Ani Quigley, David Schwartz, Anim Steel, Hannah Weinronk, and Stephanie Yee

Real Food Challenge National Steering Committee