Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Program to Promote Biobased Products Draws Praise From Iowans

Source: Wallaces Farmer

Published August 13, 2009


Farm groups in Iowa and elsewhere welcomed the recent announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that USDA has published a draft rule in the Federal Register regarding USDA's proposed label for identifying biobased products.

The drafting of rules for the voluntary label is viewed as a step toward increasing the awareness of and demand for biobased products by government agencies as well as businesses and consumers who are dedicated to using green products.

"I'm pleased to see the USDA took this important step in announcing the BioPreferred labeling rule," says Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee. "More and more consumers see the benefits of using biobased products and this label will make it much easier for people to identify the items they are looking for. These products are truly a win-win. They conserve our natural resources and at the same time help create jobs and grow our economy. Much like biofuels, biobased products will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and energy supplies."

Now is time to send in your comment on proposed rule

The draft rule will be in the Federal Register and open to public comment for 60-days, after which USDA will review the comments and work with the Office of Management and Budget to finalize the rule. Once approved, the label will be used by manufacturers and others to designate and market biobased products.

The BioPreferred Label initiative is part of USDA's BioPreferred program and was created in the 2002 Farm Bill, along with a federal procurement program for biobased products. Harkin worked to enhance this rule in the 2008 Farm Bill approved by Congress last year.

Additionally, the law includes a provision which states that all government agencies must purchase biobased products with considerations made for cost, performance and availability. Biobased products are those products made wholly or significantly from biobased materials, like resins made from corn or soybeans. The label is intended to help educate federal procurement officials and the public about which goods are primarily composed of biobased ingredients, from water bottles to construction materials.