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The Ag Agenda

November 2007

Congress, Don't Stand in the Way of U.S. Agricultural Trade


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Anyone who has ever been blocked from a doorway – figuratively or relatively – knows how disturbing the experience is, especially when there is great opportunity on the other side of that door.

This same situation is currently playing out in Congress with a handful of Latin American free trade agreements. Peru, Columbia and Panama have opened their doors for trade with the U.S., presenting significant opportunities for our agriculture sector and overall economy. But Congress is holding the keys to the door.

Maintaining our Edge

Agriculture exports are a considerable part of the U.S. market, accounting for nearly $70 billion per year. We have achieved the position of being a major world trading partner through not only world trade agreements, but also through free trade agreements with individual countries. But in doing so, we’ve never had the opportunity to fully penetrate the Latin American market. Until now.

Through individual trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama, U.S. agricultural trade would increase almost $1.5 billion per year with gains spread across all sectors of U.S. agriculture, from livestock to fiber and from grains and oilseeds to fruits and vegetables.

While the agreements would give us greater market share in these Latin American net food importing countries, they would also increase our competitive advantage with third-country competitors who already have trade agreements or are in negotiations with these countries.

A Fair Shake

An important component of all three agreements is that these countries have opened the door for U.S. agriculture exports to enter their markets duty-free. This is significant because these same countries already enjoy duty-free access to the U.S. on their agricultural products, putting our farmers and ranchers at a real disadvantage.

Congress has essentially given these countries a free pass on their products into the U.S. through previously approved programs. It’s time Congress evens out the score for American agriculture by passing all three Latin American trade agreements.

Peru, Colombia and Panama are opening their doors to U.S. agriculture. It’s up to Congress to stand aside and let us through.