October 27, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Colombia: Politics: Congress: Monterey County Herald: Sam Farr says trade pacts can hurt farmers

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Sam Farr says trade pacts can hurt farmers

Sam Farr says trade pacts can hurt farmers

Farr said he voted against CAFTA because it didn't protect some of the world's poorest farmers from being driven out of business by imported produce they can't compete against. Congressman Sam Farr of California served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia in the 1960's.

Sam Farr says trade pacts can hurt farmers

Farr says trade pacts can hurt farmers


Herald Staff Writer

People generally don't think of Monterey as a center of global trade.

But the history of the Monterey Bay is rooted in it.

"This is where Pacific Rim trading began for the United States of America," Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, told members of the Monterey Bay International Trade Association at a luncheon meeting called "Think Local and Act Global," this week in Monterey.

In its early history, Monterey was a port city, exporting tallow and agricultural products, including fresh fruit that sailors needed to fend off scurvy, he said. Yet in his days as a county supervisor in the 1970s, the county's ag report -- a comprehensive look at the agricultural industry -- didn't even list exports.

Trade is as much a vehicle for exchange of cultures as it is for the exchange of goods, Farr said, and Monterey has cornered the market as language capital of the world, he said.

But trade on an international level has become a contentious issue, with America -- and its government -- on a seesaw of sentiment, leaning first in support of trade agreements, then against them. That contentious mindset was evident in the narrow two-vote margin by which the house passed the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement this summer.

Farr said he voted against CAFTA because it didn't protect some of the world's poorest farmers from being driven out of business by imported produce they can't compete against.

Locally, the economic lifeblood of the Central Coast is agriculture, a $3.4 billion industry last year alone, but he said it's one that's largely misunderstood and unseen. And its health is hugely impacted by international trade.

The easing of trade restrictions hasn't always helped American farmers. Farr cited Matsui Nursery, Inc. in Salinas Valley, which was forced to change crops from chrysanthemums to roses, and finally to orchids to compete with cheaper South American imports. Gilroy, once garlic capital of the world, has now lost that title to China, which exports its much cheaper garlic to the U.S.

Agricultural companies are the first ones to line up to support free trade, believing they'll benefit, Farr said, but the reality is that underproducing countries have little to export to the U.S. except their agriculture.

Farr also took occasion to fire potshot at hardline immigration policies, calling it "mean politics in congress" that hold that "illegal is illegal is illegal," but grant allowances for white-collar workers but not blue-collar immigrants. He supports a quasi-legal status for some immigrants similar to the amnesty program in the 1980s.

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Monterey County Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Colombia; Politics; Congress


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