ALABAMA PROVIDES CAFTA SWING VOTES
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Alabama Republican Congressmen proved to be key votes in passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was supported by the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The Alabama Farmers Federation Board of Directors earlier this summer passed a resolution supporting CAFTA, noting that the agreement would level the playing field for U.S. producers whose products currently face high tariffs in Central American countries.
The House approved CAFTA 217-to-215 late Wednesday night. CAFTA adds six Latin American countries to the list of nations with free trade agreements with the U.S.
Alabama's seven-member Congressional delegation voted along party lines. Democrats Bud Cramer and Artur Davis voted "no." The state's five Republicans, Robert Aderholt, Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Terry Everett and Mike Rogers, voted in favor of the trade deal.
Federation National Affairs Director Keith Gray said passage of CAFTA allows Alabama farmers to continue to be competitive in the world market and to increase their exports to these Central American countries.
"Already, Alabama's exports to the CAFTA region totaled over $472 million in 2004 and represented Alabama's fifth largest export market," Gray said. "Cotton farmers will see a huge benefit, for example, since CAFTA is the second largest market for U.S. fabric and yarn. As our state's second largest export, cotton in Alabama supports almost 19,000 jobs and generates close to $3 billion in business revenue.
"Thanks to efforts from our representatives in Alabama such as Congressmen Bachus, Rogers and Aderholt, the textile industry in Alabama received additional benefits that will ensure an increase in cotton use and textile jobs in Alabama."
Poultry is another clear winner because of the passage of CAFTA. The poultry industry represents Alabama's largest component of farm-gate sales for farmers and was the fourth-largest exporter. Under CAFTA, immediate reduction of duties and tariffs for leg quarters will continue to ensure that Alabama's $2 billion in poultry sales will increase.
"We would also like to show appreciation for the leadership shown by Congressmen Everett and Bonner, who in addition to Rogers, are members of the House Agriculture Committee. They understand that agriculture is the largest component of the state's economy," Gray said.
The Senate passed the CAFTA legislation last month. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, voted in favor of CAFTA, while U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, was opposed. President Bush, who supported the legislation, is expected to sign the bill.