WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Leaders of U.S. agriculture associations said on Oct. 13 that they were pleased the U.S. Congress passed free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. They said the agreements represent nearly $3 billion of additional agriculture exports to these trading partners.

“We have waited for the day these agreements would be taken up for many years now. Based on our work within the wheat industry, we know these agreements and others like them will help us rebuild and expand markets, grow our economy here at home and remain the most reliable supplier of wheat in the world,” said Wayne Hurst, National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) president and a wheat farmer from Burley, Idaho, U.S., and Randy Suess, U.S. Wheat Associations (USW) chairman and a wheat farmer from Colfax, Washington, U.S. “We strongly urge the President to sign these agreements quickly.”

Increased exports of U.S. soy and soy fed meat and poultry will benefit soybean farmers and rural economies, said American Soybean Association (ASA) President Alan Kemper, who is a soybean producer from Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.

“After nearly five years of delays and loss of U.S. market share, soybean farmers look forward to realizing the opportunities these FTAs provide for America’s economic growth,” he said.

The Korea FTA offers immediate duty-free access to U.S. soybeans for crushing and to U.S. soybean meal. It also opens up South Korea’s food-grade soybean imports to the private sector, ASA said. The agreement will increase exports of the major grain, oilseed, fiber, fruit and vegetable, and livestock products by $1.8 billion annually, according to economic forecasts by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Colombia FTA will create new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the Colombian market by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5% to 20% on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phasing-out the 24% tariffs for crude soybean oil and refined soybean oil over five years.

“Most exports from Colombia already enter the U.S. duty-free, and this FTA will correct the current tariff imbalance in agricultural trade between our countries,” Kemper said.

The Panama FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately removing the tariffs on U.S. soybeans, soybean meal, and crude vegetable oils.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said the three FTAs could create 250,000 American jobs and add an additional $13 billion annually in exports. The U.S. continues to be the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world, exporting 50.4 million metric tons last year.

“The three free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama provide great opportunities for America’s farmers,” NCGA President Garry Niemeyer, a corn farmer from Auburn, Illinois, U.S., said. “Passage by Congress ensures our industry continues to lead the nation in economic growth and international competitiveness. In addition, this action shows members of Congress understand the importance of the FTAs to rural America.”

Since the E.U.-Korea trade agreement went into effect July 1, European exports to Korea have increased 36% from a year earlier. U.S. farmers have already lost more than $1 billion in sales to Colombia in the two years since that country implemented a trade deal with Argentina and Brazil. The Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement that took effect Aug.15 has also put U.S. workers and farmers at a disadvantage.

“Prior to Congress’ passage of the FTAs, farmers watched as other nations received access to markets over the U.S.,” Niemeyer said. “We need to keep and create jobs in America. The FTAs will help us achieve that.”