For several years, DRA members have worked for “fair trade” as opposed to “free trade.” Our members believe there are important tenets that our government should adhere to when negotiating trade agreements. These beliefs are outlined in the Trade Bill of Rights. DRA members work to ensure that our elected officials make the right decisions regarding trade agreements, but also to educate the public on this complicated subject.

In 2004, our members fought the passage of the Australian Free Trade Agreement because of the devastating affects it will have on the cattle, sheep, wheat, and dairy industries. Though the agreement passed, all three members of South Dakota’s Congressional delegation voted against the agreement!

From the Australian agreement, DRA moved on to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). CAFTA, which encompasses five Central American countries, built upon the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) disastrous policies. Like NAFTA, CAFTA contains investor-to-state provisions, which give corporations rights to challenge local, state, and national laws if they feel those laws violate their “right” to make a profit. Even worse, these challenges occur outside our court system. Companies take their complaint to a secret tribunal, and this three-person panel decides if the law violates the trade agreement. U.S. taxpayers have already paid out over $35 billion in damages, and more challenges are pending.

Last July, CAFTA passed by one vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, and though we didn’t win that battle, we made huge headway in turning the tide against unfair trade agreements. All three members of our Congressional Delegation voted against it, and many more people were made aware of what trade agreements can do to workers, farmers, ranchers, the environment, and our sovereignty.

DRA members have turned their focus toward new trade agreements. The Peru FTA, and eventually Andean FTA will expand NAFTA/CAFTA even further into South America. The ultimate goal of the United States Trade Representative is create the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), which will create a hemispheric free trade zone from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. Small farmers in all countries will be driven off the land, worker pay will dwindle, and pollution will spread. Our members are fighting to stop that from happening.