WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) emphasized on Feb. 25 the importance of trade to the domestic wheat industry and the urgent need for pending free trade agreements to be finalized in a submission sent for a U.S. House Ways and Means Committee hearing record.

The groups told members that trade is critical to the export-dependent U.S. wheat industry, which typically sees half of annual production sent overseas.

In the most recent marketing year of 2009-10, the U.S. exported roughly 40% of production, accounting for nearly 18% of all global wheat exports.

In the comments, NAWG and USW told members the ability of the wheat industry to compete on a fair and level playing field with other wheat exporting countries is essential to the economic well being of U.S. wheat producers and to continue a positive agriculture trade balance.

The groups stressed their strong support for pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and noted efforts to encourage the Obama Administration to send implementing legislation to Congress for immediate ratification.

NAWG and USW noted that ratification of the agreement with Colombia is a top industry priority as $100 million in sales and extensive market share is at immediate risk as the process drags on. Econometric analysis has found that U.S. producers would have gained 10¢ per bushel in their farm gate price if the Colombia agreement had been implemented ahead of similar measures Colombia has negotiated with Argentina and Canada.

The Ways and Means hearing was held Feb. 9, with the lone witness being U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

As previously reported in this publication, Kirk confirmed at the hearing that the administration expects to send the Korea free trade agreement to Congress in the coming weeks, but was more guarded about the agreements with Colombia and Panama.

Clickherefor Kirk’s full testimony.

The wheat industry statement is available in full atwww.wheatworld.org/trade.