Pacific Trade Deal Draws Heavy Lobbying From U.S. Agribusiness

Nov 22, 2015
A central Illinois farmer harvests his crop shortly before sundown on Sept. 24, 2015. U.S. agricultural exports reached a record level in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Darrell Hoeman / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

A new trade deal aimed at cutting thousands of taxes and opening markets with 11 Pacific Rim nations has drawn heavy lobbying from some of America’s largest agribusinesses.

The deal – known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership – was reached in early October. It is designed to ease the flow of goods between partner nations by lowering restrictive trade policies and regulations.

Bethany Hardzinski / KGOU

On Tuesday, the first organized resistance to Oklahoma’s “right-to-farm” movement gathered at the state Capitol to voice their opposition to State Question 777, which will put the issue before a vote of the people in November 2016.

Some background: right-to-farm is the idea there’s a guaranteed, unalienable right for farmers and ranchers to earn a living free from government intervention.

Students at Colorado State University care for plants in a greenhouse on campus in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Colorado State University Photography

Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempt to update the Clean Water Rule — also known as the waters of the U.S. rule — hit a snag today, with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to temporarily block its implementation.

Several Oklahoma farmers wander through a field of broad-leafed cover crops during a state Conservation Commission workshop in Dewey County in western Oklahoma.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left Oklahoma’s soil in poor shape. And if farmers don’t change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won’t be easy. As Slapout, Okla., farmer Jordan Shearer puts it: “We’re creating a desert environment by plowing the damn ground.”

Taking A Toll

A scene from 1967's "Son of Godzilla."
Toho / Sony Pictures

This year’s El Niño might be the strongest ever. The phenomenon — marked by unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America — means more precipitation could be on the way for Oklahoma. The state’s wheat farmers are hopeful, but know too much rain at the wrong time can be ruinous.

Mike Rosen runs a grain elevator near Kingfisher. He says Oklahoma’s wheat farmers can’t seem to catch a break.

Folks attending a Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Kansas City on July 18 voted on their opinions after seeing an exhibit on genetically modified organisms.
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The Chipotle Cultivate Festival had it all: an indie pop band on stage, long lines at the beer booths, folks hanging out on a hot summer day.

Sort of like a Grateful Dead concert, only with free burritos.

But the Chipotle Cultivate events, with four held across the country this summer, aims to do a little more than just than just the classic summertime music festival. Billed as offering “food, ideas and music,” the festival offers a chance to “learn a free burrito” after going through four exhibits.

Workers harvesting wheat on a farm near Altus, Okla., in June 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The decades-old embargo on trade with communist Cuba cuts U.S. goods off from what would be one of their nearest international destinations. That could be changing now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations.

Heath Gerlock, a founder of Farmobile, shows the orange box device that can feed farm data directly to a tablet, smartphone or computer. Gerlock pictured in the Iowa Public Radio studio in Ames.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.


The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System that connects the Port of Catoosa — the nation’s furthest inland seaport — to the Gulf of Mexico is “a hell of a mess” after the area got nearly 20 inches of rain in May and June, port director Bob Portiss tell’s the Tulsa World.