Pending free trade agreements that are the key to maintaining producers’ market opportunities in Colombia, Panama and South Korea were the top priority at a number of press events held in Washington on Monday.
Producer-members of organizations representing wheat, corn, beef and pork, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, spoke to an estimated 40 reporters at noontime Monday at the National Press Club and via conference call.
The conference, organized by the National Pork Producers Council, was intended to show a united front and again emphasize to Administration and Hill leaders how vital it is to finalize the three pending free trade agreements, which have all been stalled since 2007.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. wheat industry was Dale Schuler, a producer from Carter, Mont., 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 to as low as 30 percent if Canada approves its’ free trade agreement before we finalize ours. We can’t let that happen.”
The wheat industry’s top trade priority remains the Colombia agreement, which is key to maintaining annual wheat exports worth $165 million on average, representing roughly a 70 percent market share in the country. 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.
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.
Schuler also emphasized these messages in a half dozen other interviews with farm broadcasters around the country and at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s Washington Watch interview-fair, held Monday afternoon in Washington. NAWG and U.S. Wheat staff members were also on hand at Washington Watch and did at least an additional dozen interviews covering issues from farm bill to Clean Water Act regulations.
Much more information about the pending agreements and their effect on wheat producers is available at www.wheatworld.org/trade.