Grower groups applaud approval of FTAs

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The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Wheat Growers and National Wheat Associates applaud the passage Wednesday by the House and Senate of three free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. They each have statements prepared commending this action:

Statement from Wayne Hurst, National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) president and a wheat farmer from Burley, Idaho, and Randy Suess, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) chairman and a wheat farmer from Colfax, Wash., following Congressional passage:

“We were extremely pleased to see Congress pass on Wednesday the long-pending free trade agreements our country has negotiated with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. We have waited for the day these agreements would be taken up for many years now. Based on our work within the wheat industry, we know these agreements and others like them will help us rebuild and expand markets, grow our economy here at home and remain the most reliable supplier of wheat in the world. We strongly urge the President to sign these agreements quickly.”

National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released the following statement in response to the House of Representatives’ passage:

“NCGA applauds the House of Representatives for its swift passage of the  pending free trade agreements a mere week after being transmitted. In May,  NCGA testified before the House Agriculture Committee and outlined the  importance of FTAs to America’s corn farmers.  During the testimony, NCGA  reiterated that our nation’s corn farmers have much to gain when the FTAs  are ratified.  This statement remains true today.  Farmers will see security  of current export markets, increased exports of distillers grains and a  significant increase in demand for corn co-products.

“Korea is currently the United States’ third largest corn market.  With  passage of the FTA, imports of U.S. corn for feed are guaranteed to enter  duty free immediately.  It will also provide immediate access to duty-free  distillers grains. This is a growing market we cannot afford to lose to our  competitors.

“We appreciate the efforts by the House to increase meaningful and  achievable access to foreign markets.  U.S. corn farmers stand ready to meet  the growing global demand for corn.”

 ASA applauds President Barack Obama and Congress for working together to reach a final vote and urges the Administration to ensure that these FTAs enter into force by Jan. 1, 2012.

“ASA has been working for a number of years toward passage of these trade agreements, which contain significant export gains for U.S. agriculture.” said ASA President Alan Kemper, a soybean producer from Lafayette, Ind. “Increased exports of U.S. soy and soy fed meat and poultry will benefit soybean farmers and rural economies. After nearly five years of delays and loss of U.S. market share, soybean farmers look forward to realizing the opportunities these FTAs provide for America’s economic growth.”

The Korea FTA offers immediate duty-free access to U.S. soybeans for crushing and to U.S. soybean meal. It also opens up South Korea’s food-grade soybean imports to the private sector. The agreement will increase exports of the major grain, oilseed, fiber, fruit and vegetable, and livestock products by $1.8 billion annually, according to economic forecasts by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Colombia FTA will create new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the Colombian market by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5-20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phasing-out the 24 percent tariffs for crude soybean oil and refined soybean oil over 5 years.

“Most exports from Colombia already enter the U.S. duty-free, and this FTA will correct the current tariff imbalance in agricultural trade between our countries,” Kemper said.

The Panama FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately removing the tariffs on U.S. soybeans, soybean meal, and crude vegetable oils.

Leaders of NMPF and USDEC:

“We wish to thank President Obama and his trade team, and leaders in both houses of Congress, who worked hard in recent months to make these favorable votes possible,” said Jerry Kozak, president and chief executive officer of NMPF.

“The FTAs will expand U.S. dairy exports and, when fully implemented, will create thousands of export-supporting jobs in the dairy industry,” said Tom Suber, president, USDEC. “We hope that all necessary steps can be taken in the coming months by all four countries so that the agreements may enter into force at the beginning of the year and benefits to the U.S. economy can begin to be felt immediately.”

“The U.S. dairy industry stands ready to assist in any way possible to help ensure that the FTAs take effect as soon as possible,” added Kozak. “Our producers are excited about the new export opportunities that will be realized once the agreements take effect, especially the trade pact with South Korea. The export gain for dairy from the Korea FTA in the first few years after implementation will be approximately $380 million per year, on average, and the gains from the Colombia and Panama FTAs will add another $50 million annually.”

Suber pointed out that the agreements will not only help expand export sales for such products as cheese, whey, skim milk powder, and other dairy products, they also will prevent foreign competitors from taking market shares that the U.S. industry has developed in each of the countries in collaboration with USDEC. “In international trade, unless we continue to move forward, we risk falling behind our competitors,” he said. “These agreements will ensure that, for America’s dairy farmers and processors, export sales will continue to expand, not contract.”

The leaders noted that the agreements are all about giving dairy farmers greater market opportunities and better prices so that more can remain profitably in business. But Kozak also pointed out that it is not solely about bolstering milk prices for producers; it is also about expanding sales and jobs in the dairy processing and transportation sectors. “We estimate that as many as 10,000 additional jobs, both on and off the farm could be created by the Korea agreement alone,” he said.

Source: NMPF, ASA, NCGA, NAWG

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