WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Grain industry leaders and organizations offered their support for a bipartisan bill that would extend trade promotion authority (TPA) to U.S. President Barack Obama, introduced in Congress on April 16.

If approved, the bill would give the administration power to negotiate international trade agreements and submit them to legislators for an up-or-down vote.

Grain associations said the TPA would help in several trade agreements the U.S. is currently negotiating including the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S. and European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which will lower barriers to U.S. wheat exports in several key markets.

“Trade agreements are crucial to making the world more food secure,” said Cargill President and Chief Executive David MacLennan. “If we empower the president to sign trade agreements, we can ensure trade is both free and fair by creating international standards that protect workers and the environment. This is an historic opportunity.”

Cargill said it supports fast-track legislation for formal trade agreements because it encourages trading partners to place their best offers on the table, resulting in more favorable agreements for our employees, farmers, manufacturers and businesses.

Cargill said TPA is a key first step toward signing the TPP, which it said would be a huge boon to the U.S. economy by opening up a market of 485 million customers to U.S. businesses.

“TPA is not a new concept that affords extraordinary negotiating powers to the president. Every president since FDR has been given fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements,” said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, director of international business relations for Cargill and co-chair of the U.S Business Coalition for TPP. “Since the last fast-track bill expired in 2007, progress on new free trade agreements has slowed. Congress needs to pass TPA if the U.S. wants to keep its place in the world economy.”

American Soybean Association (ASA) President Wade Cowan called on Congress to quickly pass the legislation.

“We then hope that the renewed commitment to trade will help reach conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership so that we may further open these key markets to American products,” Cowan said. “Trade is a bipartisan issue that helps to build the American economy, while strengthening our position in the global marketplace. Nowhere is that role more evident than in agricultural trade. As producers of the nation's leading farm export, soybean farmers know that trade supports rural economies, and ties American producers to consumers around the world. That's a role we cherish, and one that will be significantly advanced by the legislation introduced today."

Trade is vital to the U.S. wheat industry, with 50% of the annual crop destined for export markets, said National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President Brett Blankenship. TPA builds confidence with negotiating partners that once an agreement is reached, Congress cannot change it, he said. The bill also institutionalizes consultation requirements to ensure that Congress and the President maintain a strong partnership in advancing trade policy goals.

“Comprehensive free trade agreements create a more fair and level playing field, and U.S. wheat farmers need the leverage that TPA would give U.S. negotiators to have a unified voice in a growing international market,” said USW Chairman Roy Motter. “Japan and other countries are less likely to put their best offer on the table for politically sensitive agricultural products like wheat unless they have the confidence provided by TPA.”

The United States is the world’s largest wheat exporter, offering customers around the globe a reliable, high-quality supply of six wheat classes. In the 2013-14 marketing year, ending May 31, 2014, the U.S. exported about 32 million tonnes (nearly 1.2 billion bushels) of wheat valued at about $9.7 billion, which supports thousands of jobs and creates economic benefits across the country.

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) also offered support for TPA, saying it will open doors to new markets for the feed industry.

“In 2014 alone, the U.S. exported more than $10 billion worth of feed, feed ingredients and pet food, and we recognize the exceptional room for growth and the impact this legislation could have,” said AFIA President and Chief Executive Officer Joel Newman.

"Removal of trade barriers and enforcement of trade rules requires the support of the administration. TPA is essential to ensuring the U.S. receives the best possible outcomes in trade agreements, and AFIA strongly encourages Congress, as well as the president, to work together for an efficient and beneficial outcome.”