Monday, May 10, 2010

Just in from Washington

AFBF: Congress Should Stop Dragging its Feet on Free Trade
WASHINGTON– American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman today called for Congress to stop dragging its feet and pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements. In a press conference with other agriculture groups, Stallman said Congress’ inaction on the FTAs is costing U.S. agriculture lost market share and competitiveness.

“We are seeing all around us FTAs being negotiated or already negotiated by our competitors, increasing their export potential and putting the U.S. at a disadvantage,” said Stallman. “The three FTAs combined, which are stalled in Congress, represent almost $2.5 billion in additional exports.”

Because the FTAs have not been implemented, Colombia, Panama and South Korea are moving forward on trade deals with U.S. competitors. Panama has just completed an agreement with Canada and South Korea has completed negotiations with the European Union and is currently negotiating with Canada.

In Colombia, where the U.S. was once the top agriculture exporter, market share is being taken over by other countries. Between 2008-2009, there was almost a 50 percent drop in U.S. exports. This year, Agriculture Department export data shows that U.S. exports between January and February are 11 percent less than the same time period last year.

“For agriculture, Congress’ inaction on these agreements is no longer about the potential gains, but now about preventing losing what we already have,” said Stallman. “These losses are not just about dollar amounts, but the negative impact they will have on our farmers and rural communities.”

Stallman also said that jobs beyond rural America are at stake, from processors and packers to transportation workers and longshoremen. The USDA estimates that 9,000 U.S. jobs are supported with every billion dollars in exports.

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