Two agricultural organizations are pushing in opposite directions on trade agreements. Citing the vital importance of trade to U.S. agriculture, the American Farm Bureau Federation is urging the Obama administration to submit the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote. On the other side of the coin, R-CALF USA is urging the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to reject the proposed free trade agreement with Colombia.
AFBF President Bob Stallman says these agreements offer great market opportunities for farmers all across our country and swift passage is vital for the U.S. to expand trade for farm products, from beef to cotton to fruits and vegetables.
Colombia has one of the highest tariff structures in South America, which is the major impediment to market access in many sectors, including agriculture. In a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Stallman said, "Columbian import duties on agricultural and processed food products average roughly 30%. And for South Korea, agricultural tariff rates range from just over 1% to nearly 500%, depending on the commodity. Eliminating these tariffs through these free trade pacts would be extremely beneficial to U.S. agriculture."
An AFBF economic analysis on the Columbia agreement estimates the total increase in United States farm exports could exceed $815 million per year. At the same time, AFBF says the when the Korean trade agreement is fully implemented, exports of major grain, oilseed, fiber, fruit and vegetable and livestock products are likely to exceed $1.8 billion annually.
The organization says the agreement should be rejected because the FTA completely ignores the unique characteristics of the U.S. cattle industry. The group points out the U.S. lacks a national trade policy and the U.S.-Colombia FTA, like previous FTA's and trade policies, would disadvantage U.S. cattle producers.