The majority of U.S. agricultural organizations are strongly in favor of free trade, whether it be global or bilateral. The “level playing field” phrase is most often used as the reason for that support. Exports are a significant part of the agricultural economy of our nation, and therefore of the economy as a whole. According to USDA, agricultural exports hit a record $79 billion this year. Next year that number is projected to be $83 billion.
Currently, Congress has before it several pending free trade agreements – with Panama, Peru, Colombia and Korea. Recently, Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner outlined three main reasons why these agreements should be ratified by Congress.
“First, U.S. agricultural exports currently face barriers to entering these markets. Although we allow more than 99 percent of the agricultural exports from Colombia, Panama and Peru to enter our market in the U.S. duty free, we have virtually no duty free access in their markets…
Secondly, not signing these agreements does not mean that we can maintain the status quo going forward. As other nations put free trade agreements in place, we stand simply to lose market share….
The third and final reason… is simple. It’s a simple message because free trade is simply a good thing. It does level the playing field, creates jobs, it allows for fair competition for U.S. producers, and it does capitalize on the strengths of the parties that are involved.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman noted that all of agriculture will see benefits from free trade with just the Peru, Colombia and Panama Trade Promotion Agreements. “These three agreements would increase U.S. agricultural trade by almost $1.5 billion once fully implemented,” said Stallman, “These gains would be spread across all sectors of U.S. agriculture, from livestock to fiber and from grains and oilseeds to fruits and vegetables.”
Former AFBF president Dean Kleckner says the benefit is doubled with Korea. “If Congress were to approve the four free-trade agreements currently on the table, these deals would generate more than $3 billion in additional sales for American farmers each year.”
Kleckner adds, “These trade agreements make economic sense. They’re worth enduring a little political aggravation.”