On Thursday, the National Pork Producers Council joined 70 other food and agricultural organizations in urging Congress to quickly introduce and approve legislation renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) so that major trade deals can be finalized and implemented to help the U.S. economy.

TPA defines U.S. negotiating objectives and priorities for trade agreements and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the president to follow throughout the negotiation process. Once negotiators finalize a deal, Congress gets an up or down vote – without amendments – on it. Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law being approved in August 2002 and expiring June 30, 2007.

In a letter sent to all 535 congressional lawmakers, the food and agricultural groups said the farmers, ranchers, food and agricultural companies – and workers – they represent are heavily dependent on trade for their livelihoods. (Click here to read the letter.)

“Their ability to compete in global markets is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate impediments to international trade,” said the organizations, which pointed out that as a result of trade agreements implemented since 1989 U.S. agricultural exports have nearly quadrupled in value, topping $152 billion in fiscal 2014. And those trade deals have been very beneficial to the U.S. economy, with every $1 in U.S. farm exports generating an additional $1.27 in business activity and every $1 billion in agricultural exports supporting 6,600 American jobs.

TPA, the groups said, will allow U.S. trade negotiators the ability, with direction and backing from Congress, “to extract the best deals possible from other countries.” Without it, though, “our negotiating partners would be unwilling to make the toughest concessions.”

The food and agricultural organizations are particularly interested in finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific regional agreement among 12 nations whose economies account for 40 percent global economic output.

“Should Congress not pass TPA, it will signal to our TPP partners and to the world that we are turning our back on the fastest growing economic region in the world,” said the organizations.