ASA applauds trade agreement, farm bill progress

Special to the Times-Record

The United States entered into the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade AgreementWith a proclamation from President Barack Obama, prompting the American Soybean Association to congratulate the governments of both countries for their collaboration and cooperation in the interest of trade expansion.

“The free trade agreement with Colombia holds a great deal of potential for America’s soybean farmers,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb.

“The pact expands a valuable and growing export market for American soybeans, meal, oil and products that require soy inputs like dairy, meat and poultry. The agreement also helps us regain lost market share in Central and South America’s third largest economy.”

The agreement ensures that more than half of all U.S. farm exports to Colombia—including soybeans and soybean meal and flour—will become duty-free, with virtually all of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated over the next 15 years.

The agreement also provides duty free tariff rate quotas (TRQ) on soybean oil, as well as livestock and dairy exports that utilize soybean inputs. To commemorate the event, ASA staff will join Colombian Ambassador Gabriel Silva for a reception at the Colombian Embassy in Washington today.

Soybeans and soybean products are the largest U.S. agricultural export commodity, totaling nearly 1.5 billion bushels in 2011, with a value of more than $22 billion.

Last year, the U.S. exported more than $182 million in soybeans and soybean products to Colombia, as part of $832 million in agricultural products. The International Trade Commission (ITC) estimates that the agreement will expand overall exports to Colombia by more than $1.1 billion and support thousands of additional American jobs.

As the agreement was being finalized, the ASA also cheered a bipartisan Senate letter urging action on the new Farm Bill.

In response to a letter to Senate leadership encouraging “timely and open debate” on the recently introduced Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, the association voices its support of the overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to consider the legislation that will reauthorize the nation’s farm programs. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) joined 40 of their colleagues in urging Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the Farm Bill to the floor.

“The bill takes steps to reduce the deficit and decrease government spending by $23 billion. It passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on April 26 with a bipartisan vote of 16 to 5,” wrote the senators in the letter.

“This sets an example of how senators can come together in a bipartisan way to craft meaningful, yet fiscally responsible, policy. We believe there is strong support in the full Senate to consider the bill in a fair and open manner that allows senators the opportunity to offer amendments.”

“We are particularly encouraged by the broad and diverse coalition of senators that have lent their support to this letter, and we echo their call to bring the legislation quickly to the floor in the interest of America’s soybean farmers,” said ASA President Steve Wellman.

“The nation depends on a vibrant agriculture sector, and agriculture depends on a practical and workable Farm Bill. The ramifications of this legislation are indeed huge, and it remains our goal to see a Farm Bill in 2012.”

“The risk management, conservation, research, trade promotion and nutrition programs in the legislation impacts nearly every American,” stated Johanns, Baucus, Blunt and Cantwell in a statement.

“Many of these programs will expire at the end of the year if no action is taken to reauthorize the farm bill.”