National Association of Wheat Growers  (NAWG) President Wayne Hurst, a grower from Burley, ID, and U.S. Wheat Associates  (USW) Chairman Don Schieber, a grower fromPonca City, OK, say the successfully negotiated U.S. and Columbia free-trade agreement (FTA) will help level the playing field for U.S. producers.
"The U.S. wheat industry is very pleased to hear the announcement from President Barack Obama’s administration that the U.S. and Colombia have successfully negotiated a way forward on our pending free trade agreement (FTA),” the two wheat leaders say in a joint statement. “This is a critical step toward being able to compete on a level playing field in one of the largest wheat markets in South America.
“Without this FTA, U.S. wheat farmers face a potential loss of sales currently valued at about $100 million/year. This advancement is the result of hard work by parties in both the U.S. and Colombia. Specifically, we want to thank President Obama and his administration’s efforts to overcome points of contention in the original agreement.”
The wheat leaders say Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian government and its people – especially the Colombian wheat milling industry – deserve praise for their efforts to make this agreement possible. “We thank the many U.S. wheat industry leaders who have worked tirelessly to support the agreement,” the statement says. “Members of Congress who have come out in support of the FTA also deserve credit for their role in moving the agreement forward.
"U.S. wheat producers need this FTA to compete in the Colombian market on the basis of quality and supply with wheat from other countries. Argentine wheat enjoys trade preferences under the Mercosur agreement. Canada and Colombia have ratified a separate FTA that will eliminate import tariffs on Canadian wheat and most other agricultural goods likely by July of this year.
“When that happens, the existing tariff and price band system applied to U.S. wheat imports will, in effect, make Canadian wheat significantly cheaper than U.S. wheat. As a result, Colombian millers who want to keep buying U.S. wheat would be forced buy more wheat from Canada because of the significant tariff disadvantage alone. The U.S.-Colombia FTA would remove that barrier.”
NAWG and USW encourage the Obama administration to prepare and submit the FTA to the House of Representatives for a ratification vote as soon as possible. “Assuming Congress and the Colombian legislature ratify the agreement, several months will be needed before the FTA is implemented,” the wheat leaders say, adding that NAWG and USW will continue to work to encourage rapid approval of the U.S.-Colombia FTA and FTAs with South Korea and Panama.”