Colorado's House members voted unanimously in favor of the [Peru Free Trade Agreement], but some state residents don't understand why, because in 2005 four House members -- Democrats Diana DeGette, John Salazar and Mark Udall and Republican Tom Tancredo -- opposed CAFTA, a similar measure that relaxed trade regulations with a block of Central American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
"It's just a mystery," says Reed Kelly, a cattle rancher operating outside of Meeker, Colorado, on the Western Slope, when referring to the House of Representatives' vote on the Peru FTA.
Kelly joined the Western Organization of Research Councils, a rural advocacy organization based in Billings, Montana, to oppose the Peru agreement.
"I really can't quite understand it," Kelly says. "This is basically just an expansion of NAFTA and CAFTA, and if there were reasons to vote against CAFTA, those reasons are even greater for the Peru FTA."
Trade agreements like NAFTA and its extension, CAFTA, are no stranger to controversy. Numerous organizations have opposed the measures due to their more relaxed labor, agricultural and environmental regulations, which have led to an outsourcing of jobs from the U.S. and allegations of workers' rights abuses in places such as Mexico, among other issues.
Kelly says he's personally experienced the effects of the government's free-trade agreements on the ranching industry, where cheaper beef imports have marginalized beef producers on the Western Slope.
"There are a lot less of us in business," Kelly says, claiming that it's getting harder to afford hay costs for ranching because of the lowered prices for beef that have occurred under the agreements. Particularly, Kelly is concerned that with the passage of the Peru FTA, Brazil, a prominent beef producer, will be able to flood the market through Peru, due to inadequate rules on labeling a product's country of origin.
It speaks volumes when your own friends and supporters can't figure out where you stand on an issue like free trade. But not surprising for someone who has been caught selling his vote before. Maybe Udall should start preparing for next year's coming Senate campaign by debating himself.