As Land Stewardship Project members and supporters know, LSP has been active in working to defeat Congressional approval of pro-corporate trade policy, such as fast track authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This week, we sent letters to members of the Minnesota and Wisconsin congressional delegations, laying out LSP’s reasons for its firm opposition, and urging lawmakers to vote no on the bills to approve fast track that are expected to reach the U.S. Senate and House floors as early as next week. Here is what we wrote:
“The members of the Land Stewardship Project believe fast track is contrary to the critically important democratic principles of public participation, transparency and accountability. Under fast track, the text of trade agreements would continue to be highly secretive, off-limits for any member of the American public to view. Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate lobbyists are granted permission to view the text, while the general public has no ability to see what is being negotiated in our name. We oppose fast track because it is used as a way to squelch informed public debate and participation in some of the major issues facing our communities.
“Not only does fast track marginalize the public, but it also marginalizes the constitutional role of Congress. Proposed trade policies would affect a broad span of issues relating to patents and copyright, food safety, government procurement, corporate rights, financial regulation, immigration, healthcare, energy, the environment, labor rights and more. To waive Congress’ constitutional authority on such a broad set of issues is inappropriate and irresponsible.
“Members of the Land Stewardship Project are particularly concerned with key measures included in the fast tracked trade agreements. The ‘investor-state’ provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, would grant multi-national corporations the legal right to sue local governments for damages for passing laws designed to protect public health, consumer safety and environmental integrity that the corporations deem would negatively affect their “future expected profits.” Legally prioritizing profits above all else is not in the best interest of the American people. Because such pro-corporate trade agreements would take precedence over U.S. laws at the federal, state and municipal level, a wide range of public policy could be rewritten without any of the necessary public processes associated with democratic lawmaking. Minnesotans have a long history of utilizing these democratic tools of local control to shape our communities. Our members understand that a vote for fast track is a vote against local democracy.
“The Land Stewardship Project is concerned with how pro-corporate trade policy like fast track will affect our food and agriculture system. Because of the secrecy of the negotiating process, it is impossible to know whether proposed trade agreements will bolster the integrity of American food and agriculture or strengthen rural communities. What really matters is fair trade that helps us develop a healthier food and agriculture system. The only way to achieve that is through fair, transparent and inclusive processes that take the best from local innovations like farm-to-school programs, other public institutions’ policies to buy local foods, and environmental and consumer protections, and builds on them to provide affordable access to healthy food for all Minnesotans. Simply expanding export markets will not serve to strengthen those initiatives. Our members understand fast track and TPP are being pushed forward in order to increase the profits of agribusiness firms that already dominate too much of our food and agriculture system, and to inhibit Americans from working through their local governments for the public policies they need and want.”
We closed the letter by urging each U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative to vote NO on fast track authority. We asked them or their staff to contact us if they had any questions about LSP’s position. And we let them know that we would be reporting to LSP’s 4,000+ member households the outcomes of the votes and how the Minnesota and Wisconsin congressional delegations voted.
Mark Schultz is LSP’s associate director, director of programs and director of the organization’s Policy and Organizing Program. He can be contacted at 612-722-6377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.