An elite delegation of agricultural leaders , sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council, made history as the first group to meet with key officials in Panama and Colombia following passage of free trade agreements with the United States. National Corn Growers Association Chairman Bart Schott and USGC Chairman Wendell Shauman, along with Council staff, explored the outlook for FTA implementation with government officials, private sector grain customers, and with U.S. ambassadors and USDA officials during this momentous tour.
“Our purpose was to see how far those folks have gone on implementing the FTAs,” said Schott, who spent much of his year as NCGA president working for U.S. ratification of the agreements. “It appears the implementation of these agreements will progress smoothly in both Panama and Colombia, and the U.S. will soon be exporting corn to them under this legislation.”
“The Council has been committed to regaining unfettered access to markets in both Panama and Colombia,” Shauman added. “These FTAs will go far toward reversing trade flow of South American corn and soybeans moving into the Caribbean Basin.”
The delegation provided buyers and other dignitaries from the countries visited information on the availability and quality of U.S. feed grains, while reconciling concerns about high levels of dust and foreign material in some shipments.
Both Panama and Colombia currently source corn from Argentina which, according to Shauman, is of good quality. However, excitement about the shipping advantage with U.S. feed grains is clear. Panamanian customers, for example, can place an order and receive their shipment within five days.
Once fully implemented, the Colombian FTA is expected to increase all U.S. agricultural exports by an additional $370 million per year. In Panama, the pact is projected to produce an additional $46 million in annual sales.