Ag Committee Members Push for Action on Free Trade Agreements

May 12, 2011

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

WASHINGTON – Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a public hearing to examine the three pending free trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, and the issues surrounding their implementation. It has been nearly four years since the agreements were signed and delays to implement them are costing the U.S. in market share and access to foreign competitors.

Agriculture stands to benefit significantly from expanding exports because it is one of the most trade-dependent industries in the U.S. today. The agreements are worth more than $2.5 billion in new market access for American agricultural exports. U.S. agricultural exports currently support nearly 900,000 jobs. For every dollar of goods exported, another $1.48 is created in activities such as processing, finance, shipping, and packaging of agricultural goods.

During the hearing, Members of the Agriculture Committee stressed the importance of the agreements because they would make U.S. agricultural products more competitive by reducing and eventually eliminating tariffs and non-tariff import restrictions. Members also questioned U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on a timeline for implementing the three agreements. There are particular concerns that the U.S. is losing the advantages of moving first in negotiating agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea because U.S. trading partners are implementing their own trade deals with these countries. For example, Korea has a free trade agreement with the European Union that will go into effect in July.

"Right now America's farmers and ranchers are competing in the global market in the face of stiff protectionism while their foreign competitors are gaining preferential treatment and access at their expense. We must act quickly and bring these agreements to a vote before July 1. These FTAs will expand U.S. exports, create jobs, and bring much-needed income to communities across rural America. It is time for action," said Chairman Frank Lucas.

Written testimony provided by the witnesses is linked below.

Witness List:

Panel I

The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative, Washington, D.C.

Panel II

Mr. Gordon Stoner, Stoner Farms, on behalf of National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates, Outlook, Montana

Mr. Rick Tolman, Chief Executive Officer, National Corn Growers Association, Chesterfield, Missouri

Mr. Sam Carney, Carney Farms, Inc., on behalf of National Pork Producers Council, Adair, Iowa

Mr. Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Bill Donald, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Washington, D.C.