The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


World Farmers' Organization plans for trade statement

2012_0606_World Farmers Organization

World Farmers' Organization President Robert Carlson addresses
the organization's General Assembly on Wednesday in Rome. (National Farmers Union)

The World Farmers' Organization has completed its second general assembly in Rome and is working on a plan to come up with a statement on trade, Robert Carlson, the group’s president, said in a telephone news conference today.

Carlson, a former North Dakota Farmers Union president who is also the vice president for international relations of the National Farmers Union, said that at least 45 organizations have joined the group, which was formed last year at a meeting in South Africa to provide a farmer's voice before international organizations.

“I am confident the organization will go forward and thrive,” Carlson said, adding that the group will meet in Japan next year.

The NFU is only the U.S. member of the World Farmers' Organization, but Carlson said that membership is open to national, general farm organizations and co-operatives. Groups organized by sector can also join as affiliates, but do not have voting rights.

Carlson acknowledged that there is a “wide range of philosophy” on trade, ranging from Cairns Group members such as Australia that believe in total free trade in agriculture to those that want policies that would encourage farmers to stay on the land and protect their products from imports.

The group has decided to set up a formal process of proposals and amendments to come up with a statement on trade, Carlson said, noting that without an international farmer position the debate will be dominated by agribusiness and consumer groups.

Due to the policy differences, he added, the statement is likely to be focused on using trade to increase farmer incomes and increase people's access to a nutritious diet.

Carlson also predicted that there will be “a new trade agenda” because the current trade rules were written “when the world was awash in grain and meat.”

The new trade agenda, he said, will be focused on an era of feeding a growing world population in an era of more expenses resources and calls to achieve that in a more sustainable fashion.