FARMERS FEDERATION URGES PASSAGE OF FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Sept. 16 -- Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby today urged Congress to quickly pass trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that could boost exports and create jobs.
"For more than four years, agreements have set in Washington while other countries negotiated bi-lateral trade deals that cut into the market for U.S. goods," said Newby. "Now is the time to act. If lawmakers don't pass the trade agreements this fall, U.S. businesses -- especially farmers -- will be at a competitive disadvantage with other nations."
The American Farm Bureau Federation, of which the Alabama Farmers Federation is a member, estimates the three trade agreements represent almost $2.5 billion in new agricultural exports. Since every $1 billion in farm exports supports almost 9,000 U.S. jobs, the pending deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama could create nearly 22,500 new ag-related jobs.
"If the Obama administration and Congress fail to reach agreements on the trade deals, U.S. agricultural exports -- the lone bright spot in America's trade balance -- could dry up," said Newby. "Exports account for 24 percent of all U.S. agricultural production, and total almost $900 million a year in Alabama alone. Nationally, we export about $115 billion in farm products, compared to ag imports of about $79 billion. This positive trade balance creates job, keeps farm families on the land and helps feed the world."
Currently, U.S. agricultural products face tariffs of up to 500 percent in South Korea. Colombia and Panama have duty-free access to U.S. markets while American exporters pay an average tariff of 30 percent to access the Colombia market and up to 160 percent to access the market in Panama.