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Voice: NAFTA and WTO need to be repealed to save ag industries

March 12, 2001

It's been some time now that the ag economy here in our valley and across the nation has been mired in a severe depression. One might get the impression this is normal in the cyclic nature of farming and its allied industries.

Those in the industry know all too well the problem is much more than that. It has to do with political policies enacted by our government called NAFTA and WTO. These policies were to have the effect of expanding our markets and creating more trade, and thus, more prosperity for all.

It has partially achieved its goal. Prosperity is being achieved by foreign producers at the expense of our domestic ag industry because market protection has been, for the most part, cast aside, allowing foreign producers tremendous trade advantages.

On the surface one would get the idea this would be good for the U.S. consumer. In the short term it is. We'll all enjoy cheaper products and services. Meanwhile, domestic producers continue to struggle under the restraints of higher minimum wage levels, regulatory costs, higher taxation and higher costs for raw materials and other inputs. The playing field has become skewed in favor of foreign competition. Consequently, our domestic producers and allied businesses are going out of business at alarming rates.

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What does this mean? In the long run it means our domestic ag industry will not be able to supply the quantity and quality of products and services it does today. That means there will be an even greater reliance on foreign produced goods and services.

Is that what we want as a nation? I don't think so. Consider how vulnerable and reliant our nation has become on the foreign production of oil and associated products. Do we want to see the skyrocketing prices of gasoline and oil become the norm for food and fiber?

Maybe the American farmer should be extended a pat on the back for maintaining high-quality, low-cost goods and services to the American consumers and others around the world all these years. And although that would be a nice gesture, the American farmer would feel more appreciated if the American public would realize the dilemma and extend pressure on our government to repeal the NAFTA and WTO laws. These laws are slowly but surely killing this industry and the benefits the American consumer has enjoyed in the 20th century.

We in agriculture and its related industries represent only 2 percent of the populace, but the other 98 percent of our society stands to reap significant benefits from helping to see the 2 percent remains competitive and in business. We are not afraid of competition. We just want a level playing field.

I would think those in government could see the dire results of how these laws have affected the ag industry. Perhaps they don't care. I believe people are good and will make the right choices once they are educated. We have allowed the government to dupe us into thinking all is well. Even during the presidential campaigns, we were told about the unprecedented prosperity our country was enjoying.

Knowing what you do today, do you believe that? I encourage you to become responsible, get informed and voice your concerns so we don't get ourselves painted into a corner. Otherwise we might be looking at an undependable supply of high-priced, low-quality goods and services for the U.S. consumer in the near future.

DOUG DAHM

Brawley

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