WASHINGTON, D.C. - Calling exports the key to stable farm incomes in the era of declining federal involvement in agriculture, Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today announced that he is leading a trade delegation to Chile and Argentina from January 22 to January 28, to discuss agricultural trade issues.
Smith, who has pledged to make increasing agricultural exports a principal focus of the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress, said the bipartisan delegation, comprised of Committee members, would discuss a wide range of issues, including Chilean accession into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sanitary and phytosanitary measures as barriers to trade, and the continuing liberalization and reform of worldwide agricultural trade.
"The Freedom to Farm Act essentially takes government out of the business of agriculture. As government support declines in the coming years, new markets will be critical to maintaining stable farm prices. Government can't just walk away from America's farmers; we have an obligation to actively seek out new markets, to encourage more open trade policies and a reduction in trade barriers, and to consider very carefully the impact of expanding free trade agreements," Smith said.
"Very soon, the Clinton Administration will ask Congress for fast-track negotiating authority for folding Chile into NAFTA. The implications for American agriculture, and certainly for particular commodities, are enormous. For this Committee, we will not make that decision lightly, and we won't take it on faith. We'll see for ourselves and we'll ask tough questions, because the stakes for agriculture can't be much higher," Smith said.
"Agriculture products have become the nation's number one export, and I am very optimistic about the potential of U.S. products to find new markets overseas," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), the Committee's ranking minority member, who will make the trip. "I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to develop opportunities for trade in South America."
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents eastern Texas' 17th Congressional District.