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NCGA responds to sweetener study

Vaughan, a corn grower from Dumas, Texas, was responding to media reports about a new study critical of sweetener and ethanol provisions in the proposed CAFTA agreement that would include the United States and five Central American countries. The study is also critical of U.S. trade policy generally.

The study asserts U.S. trade policy will eliminate tariffs on imported sugar and ethanol - and that prices for these products would fall - making U.S.-produced corn sweetener and ethanol uncompetitive.

The study, called the "Buzzanell Study on the Effect of U.S. Sugar and Ethanol Tariff Elimination on the U.S. Sugar, Corn Sweetener and Ethanol Industries," also suggests U.S. corn growers should alter their policy calling for no exclusions in negotiations for free trade agreements.

But Vaughan says CAFTA, which includes Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, is a promising arrangement for U.S. corn producers.

"It's going to be a better agreement for U.S. corn farmers now that Costa Rica agreed to immediate tariff elimination for yellow corn," he said. "It guarantees access to roughly 1.5 million metric tons of imports ... of corn and that's about 60 million bushels."

While press reports have suggested CAFTA would be particularly unfavorable for the U.S. ethanol industry, Vaughan points out the ethanol trade is already governed by an existing trade deal.

"There's been a lot of misrepresentation about how CAFTA treats ethanol," said Vaughan. "CAFTA does not change the ability for ethanol to come in at all. The study just doesn't get it right. "Vaughan says NCGA strongly supports free and fair trade. The vast majority of the world's consumers, Vaughan explained, don't live in America.

"Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers are outside of our borders," he said. "One of our goals is to create new markets worldwide. We see free trade agreements as a way of doing that."

And while Vaughan says NCGA supports CAFTA, the association's Corn Board will conduct and in-depth review of the final agreement before endorsing it. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is expected to release the text of the agreement by the end of this week.

"Each commodity should have the right to decide on the final agreement," he said. "But a single commodity should not hold back the entire trade agenda for agriculture. We look forward to working with the USTR on CAFTA and we'll make a judgment whether we support it or not based on what is in the best interests of corn growers."

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

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