Several Iowa farm groups praised the passage of three much debated free trade agreements by the U.S. Congress last week. The FTAs, as they are called, are with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association praised the passage of three free trade agreements by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on Wednesday, October 12. The House voted 262-167 in favor of the Colombia FTA, 300-129 for the Panama FTA, and 278-151 for the South Korea FTA. Additionally, the House passed a bill to reauthorize trade adjustment assistance (TAA) by a vote of 307-122. In the Senate, the Colombia FTA passed 66-33, the Panama FTA passed 77-22, and the South Korea FTA passed 83-15.
In the Iowa delegation, votes for all three agreements were split along party lines—Grassley, King and Latham voted in support of all three FTAs, and Harkin, Boswell, Braley, and Loebsack voted against the FTAs.
Benefits expected for Iowa agriculture and the state's general economy
"Iowa Corn thanks Congress for its support of the free trade agreements," says Mindy Larsen Poldberg, director of government affairs for ICGA. "Iowa corn growers strongly supported the passage of the FTAs as the U.S. is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world."
The three free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama provide great opportunities for America's farmers," says National Corn Growers Association president Garry Niemeyer, a farmer from Auburn, Illinois. "Passage by Congress ensures our industry continues to lead the nation in economic growth and international competitiveness. In addition, this action shows members of Congress understand the importance of the FTAs to rural America."
Iowa Farm Bureau also applauds passage of the three free trade agreements which Farm Bureau leaders say will boost Iowa's ag economy. The three bilateral agreements between the United States and Korea, Columbia and Panama eliminate the tariffs on U.S. products exported to those countries.
These three agreements represent an incredible opportunity for farmers
"These three agreements represent an incredible opportunity for Iowa farmers. Exports have been an important component of Iowa's ag economy as we lead the nation in the production of corn, soybeans and pork," says Craig Lang, president of Iowa Farm Bureau. "This not only increases access for our products in these markets, but strengthens our state's economy and creates more jobs for Iowans, as well. As a fifth-generation dairy farmer with my children working in the operation, that gives me even more hope for my farm and all Iowa farms."
Lang also commended Iowa Farm Bureau members who have played an active role in sharing information about the benefits of these agreements through meetings and communications with leaders in Iowa, Washington, D.C. and even traveling overseas to meet with international leaders.
The agreements, in total, are expected to increase direct exports from Iowa alone by $162.2 million and add 1,460 jobs, according to economic analysis from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. Nationally, the agreements represent nearly $2.5 billion in new U.S. ag exports and 19,000 jobs.
Passage of long-delayed trade deals is good, but now the work begins
The U.S. Grains Council also saluted Congress on final passage of the long-stalled free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. These agreements provide significant benefits for U.S. agricultural trade and the U.S. economy by leveling the playing field in markets where U.S. producers have been laboring under an unfair competitive disadvantage, says Tom Dorr, president and CEO of USGC.
Ratification of the agreements provides for immediate duty-free access for most U.S. goods, creating opportunities for increases in U.S. agricultural exports which will generate economic growth and U.S. jobs, he says. The agreements are expected to generate roughly $13 billion in additional export revenue, with approximately $11 billion of the total flowing to South Korea.
"This is great news," adds USGC chairman Dr. Wendell Shauman. "Our farmer leaders have been working hard with Congressional members to demonstrate the benefits of U.S. agricultural trade. Their hard work has paid off."
Shauman and Dorr will travel to Colombia and Panama in the near future for meetings with private sector and governmental leaders aimed at regaining U.S. grain exports to the region. U.S. ag exports have lost market share in both countries in recent years because other exporting countries have negotiated their own free-trade agreements, excluding the U.S., while the U.S. trade agreements remained stalled. In 2007, for example, Colombia imported 3 million tons of corn with the United States enjoying a 95% market share. In 2010, however, imports fell to 700,000 metric tons and U.S. market share shrunk to less than 20%.
"With a level playing field, the United States has an excellent chance of winning back these markets," said Shauman. We have a shipping advantage from the Gulf Ports, and we have historically been a trusted partner and preferred provider for grain exports in the Caribbean Basin. It's great to be back in the game."
Pork producers also vigorously supported and pushed for passage
The National Pork Producers Council, headquartered in Des Moines, vigorously lobbied for and supported passage of all three FTAs. Hundreds of pork producers visited, called and written to their lawmakers to urge them to support the agreements. NPPC led a coalition of more than 120 agricultural groups in support of the agreements. The U.S. pork industry was instrumental in getting the trade agreements approved, particularly the deal with South Korea.
Last December when the United States and the Asian nation were at an impasse over trade in autos, the U.S. pork industry agreed to move back the effective date for when much of its exports enter Korea at a zero tariff rate. Following passage of the U.S.-Korea FTA, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak addressed a joint session of Congress. In recognition of the benefits that the agreement holds for the pork industry, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Ohio pork producer Alan Wuebker to attend president Lee's address. NPPC President-elect R.C. Hunt also attended Lee's address and was interviewed by the Korean Broadcasting Service, Korea's leading public service broadcaster. The interview aired in Korea this past week.The FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and Korea, when fully implemented, will add more than $11 to the price producers receive for each hog, will generate more than $772 million in additional pork exports and will create more than 10,200 direct U.S. pork industry jobs, say NPPC officials. NPPC is now encouraging the Obama administration and the FTA partner governments to implement the FTAs as soon as possible.