Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pending FTAs Vital to Wheat Industry, Wheat Producers

Wheat growers and other agricultural producers are in Washington this week to again emphasize to Administration and Hill leaders how vital it is to finalize pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

The wheat industry’s top trade priority remains the Colombia agreement, which is key to maintaining more than $90 million in wheat exports to Colombia every year. U.S. wheat faces competition in Colombia from Argentina, which enjoys advantages from the Mercosur trade agreement allowing for duty-free access, and Canada, which is poised to soon approve its own free trade agreement.

Producers-members of organizations representing wheat, corn, beef and pork, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, spoke to reporters at the National Press Club at noon.

Speaking at the press conference on behalf of the U.S. wheat industry was Dale Schuler, a former NAWG president and current chairman of the NAWG/U.S. Wheat Joint International Trade Policy Committee.

“The simple fact is that the U.S. is losing market share in Colombia,” Schuler told the assembled media. “We hear from our Colombian buyers that our share of that market could fall as low as 30 percent if Canada approves its free trade agreement before we finalize ours. We can’t let that happen.”

U.S. Wheat Associates estimates that, at current export prices, failure to ratify the U.S.-Colombia FTA could lead to an annual loss of more than $92 million for the U.S. wheat industry.

On the other hand, analysis by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) suggests that if the Colombia FTA were in effect now, U.S. wheat exports would be 20 million bushels greater and the farm price would be 10 cents per bushel higher.

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