Colombian wheat buyers and millers told the media, Obama Administration and Hill offices this week that U.S. wheat sales to their country would likely drop by more than 50 percent if a pending free trade agreement isn’t ratified soon.
The Colombians, in town as part of a U.S. Wheat Associates trade team, carried their message to staff at the Senate Finance Committee, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the House Ways and Means Committee. The delegation also visited the offices of Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), as well as officials at USDA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the National Security Agency.
Colombia is the largest market for U.S. wheat in South America, with a U.S. market share typically around 70 percent and an average of almost $165 million in sales each year.
However, leading competitors, notably Canada and Argentina, are poised to take more of the market due in large part to more favorable trade preferences. Wheat from Argentina already enters duty free, and Canada will be ratifying a free trade agreement with Colombia later this year. Colombia is also working on a free trade agreement with the European Union.
The U.S.-Colombia agreement, signed in late 2006, would provide immediate duty-free access for U.S. wheat to the Colombian market, but has been stalled due to a variety of concerns about labor and environmental issues and a political environment heavily focused on economic recovery.
The millers and buyers in town this week were joined by U.S. wheat farmers Hans Hayden of Arbon, Idaho, and Chet Edinger of Mitchell, S.D., whose farm they visited during a tour of South Dakota farms later in the week.
The delegation focused on the uphill battle U.S. wheat producers will face without the U.S.-Colombia FTA, resulting in millions of dollars in losses of exports. Failure to finalize this agreement would cost U.S. wheat producers up to $100 million in annual sales, according to U.S. Wheat, the industry’s export market development organization.
For more information on this issue, please visit http://www.uswheat.org/newsRelease/doc/4AA2A4B55C186E02852575F2004240C9?OpenDocument